House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump's claims that he can eliminate birthright citizenship via executive order

By Tierney McAfee
October 30, 2018 03:37 PM
President-Elect Trump And Vice President-Elect Pence Meet With House Speaker Paul Ryan On Capitol Hill
Credit: Zach Gibson/Getty

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump‘s claims that he can eliminate birthright citizenship via executive order.

“Well, you obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order,” the Wisconsin Republican told the Lexington, Kentucky, radio station WVLK, according to the Associated Press. “We didn’t like it when Obama tried changing immigration laws via executive action, and obviously as conservatives, we believe in the Constitution.”

Ryan noted that such an executive order would not be consistent with the 14th Amendment, saying, “You know, as a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”

Though his comments marked a rare challenge to the president from within his own party, Ryan added that he agrees with the president on the “root issue here, which is unchecked illegal immigration.”

Ryan’s comments come after Trump said in an interview Monday night with Axios on HBO that he wants to sign an executive order that would terminate birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Trump claimed that he did not need congressional approval to make the change.

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said, adding that White House lawyers were working on it. “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress but now they’re saying I can do it with just an executive order.”

The majority of legal scholars agree that Trump cannot do away with birthright citizenship via executive order, according to The New York Times.

Ryan is not the only Republican to push back against Trump’s proposal. GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that he believes only a constitutional amendment could change birthright citizenship.

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“I am not a lawyer but it seems to me it would take a constitutional amendment to change that as opposed to an executive order,” Grassley told an Iowa CBS station, according to The Hill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also criticized the president’s comments in a statement Tuesday.

“The President does not have the power to erase parts of the Constitution, but he and the GOP Congress have spent two years trying to erase protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” the Democrat said. “Clearly, Republicans will do absolutely anything to divert attention away from their votes to take away Americans’ health care.”