President Donald Trump suggested in an interview that he could sign an executive order eliminating automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S. to noncitizens. If he follows through, the order would undoubtedly set off a legal challenge that would ultimately end at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump’s suggestion during the Axios interview set off a flurry of reactions from both sides of the aisle ahead of the midterm elections.
Trump declares he can end birthright citizenship with an executive order: "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't." pic.twitter.com/CAK07Kt11D— Axios (@axios) October 30, 2018
At a campaign event in Uvalde, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said he has long supported ending birthright citizenship and that it "encourages people to break the law." He said it's unclear how the policy could legally be eliminated, though.
"I suspect that whatever method [President Trump] uses will be challenged in court," he said. "Ultimately the courts will sort out the proper mechanism. But I think as a policy matter, ending birthright citizenship makes a lot of common sense."
The Democrat challenging Cruz for his Senate seat, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, opposes ending birthright citizenship. His campaign website calls for legalizing the status of millions of immigrants already in the country and ensuring a fair path to citizenship “for those inspired by the opportunity and ideals that we present to the rest of the world.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who represents Austin and San Antonio, suggested the president wanted to rile up his base and bring immigration to the forefront ahead of Election Day.
"He is a master of distraction," Doggett said. "He continues to foment bigotry and do everything he can to distract attention from his failures on health care and on education, in hopes that his base rhetoric will motivate his base."
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has garnered praise from Trump for his lawsuit to end pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act, said he thinks the order would address immigration issues Congress hasn't been able to tackle.
"This is something that, I think, most Americans find unacceptable – that you create an incentive for somebody to cross the border, have a baby and suddenly they're a citizen," Paxton told Fox News. "It doesn't make any sense, and I'm glad the president's taking a look at this and considering it an option."
Temo Muniz, Texas chairman of the Federation of Hispanic Republicans, said his parents were illegal immigrants and that growing up he always considered himself a "proud American." He called the president's suggestion "repulsive."
"It just draws from me an immediate reaction of: You're not touching my natural right," he said.
How Republican leaders respond will loom large in the future of a GOP that's trying to attract more Hispanic voters. Ultimately, he said, it could lead to a split in the party.
"I still believe that we have an opportunity as a Republican Party," he said. "But at this point, with what the president said this morning ... I think it's time for a Republican civil war in the Republican Party of Texas. And I think it's time to stop playing nice."
At an event this morning, Republican Sen. John Cornyn said his position on immigration is "pretty simple: legal immigration is good, illegal immigration is bad."
He said he hopes that after the election, lawmakers can work together on a nonpartisan basis to come up with some solutions.
"We need less posturing and less rhetoric on this and more solutions," he said. "I know the president is enormously frustrated, and I am frustrated too, about our inability to work together on a bipartisan basis to solve the underlying problem, but that is what I think we have to do."
We'll update this story with more responses.