Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul is best known for radical anti-government views that lead him to oppose the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters, while claiming that governmental criticism of BP is “un-American.” Yet Paul’s hatred of all things government appears to end at the border. In an interview with a Russian television station, Paul calls for expansive levels of surveillance and unconstitutional attacks on Americans’ citizenship:
I recently have been talking more about satellite observation. They say you can sit in front of the store here and a satellite can read the headline on your newspaper. So I think you could also monitor your border with satellites, and then you just have to have some means of intercepting people who come in illegally. You could have helicopters stations positioned every couple of hundred miles. . .
We’re the only country I know of that allows people to come in illegally have a baby and then that baby becomes a citizen. And I think that should stop also.
It’s a bit amusing to see a self-described libertarian call for satellite-directed helicopter brigades to sweep down upon anyone who wanders too close to America’s southern border. It is not clear why Paul insists upon using wildly-expensive spy satellites to monitor the border when cheaper technology exists. But Paul’s call to end birthright citizenship, however, is by far the most radical aspect of his immigration plan because it conflicts with the express language of the Constitution.
Under the 14th Amendment, “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This language is unambiguous; it grants citizenship to all persons born in the US unless they are not subject to American “jurisdiction” — a very narrow exception that applies only to children of foreign diplomats and a handful of other people. Moreover, in U.S. v Wong Kim Ark and again in Plyer v. Doe, the Supreme Court firmly rejected the notion that persons born in the US are not citizens, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.
Paul’s utter disregard for the Constitution’s plain text is particularly damning because, Paul justifies his radical opposition to cherished laws such as the Civil Rights Act by his false belief that such laws are unconstitutional. Like many conservatives, Paul subscribes to the “tenther” belief that the federal government lacks meaningful authority to regulate the national economy, and thus Congress is powerless against local businesses that want to exclude African-Americans or other disfavored groups.
Paul told NPR that every piece of legislation that Congress passes “should point to where in the Constitution they get the authority for it.” As his opposition to birthright citizenship indicates, however, he seems quite comfortable contravening the express words of the Constitution.