President Donald Trump is ramping up anti-immigrant rhetoric ahead of next week's midterm elections, announcing plans to sign an executive order that would revoke birthright citizenship, the constitutional right for people born in the United States to claim citizenship.
In an exclusive interview with Axios on HBO, the president easily dismissed the notion that the U.S. Constitution might stand in the way of his proposal, saying that he's been told he can enforce such a policy solely by exercising his executive authority.
"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment," Trump said. "Guess what? You don't. You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order."
Trump then went on to make a misleading statement about the US supposedly being the only country that allows for birthright citizenship. In fact, more than 30 countries in the Western hemisphere alone guarantee this right to citizenship.
"We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States ... with all of those benefits," Trump said. "It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end."
The president's comments arrive as a new refugee caravan makes its way to the US-Mexico border. Trump has already deployed an additional 5,200 troops to the border in attempts to thwart asylum-seeking migrants from entering the country, and has used the caravan as a launching pad for riling up his base.
"He's running out of cards to play," Kamal Essaheb, the director of policy & advocacy, at the National Immigration Law Center's Immigrant Justice Fund, tells Broadly. "If you send 5,200 troops to the border on Monday, you have to come up with something on Tuesday. We should expect more of this over the coming week, because the clock is ticking and the map is shrinking."
Essaheb emphasized that Trump has no legal grounds on which to rescind the birthright citizenship rights guaranteed by the 14th amendment, calling the president's proposal "a real loser in court."
Other immigrant rights advocates echoed Essaheb's assessment of the viability of revoking birthright citizenship, highlighting that a president's orders can't void constitutional amendments.
“If you are born in the United States, you’re a citizen,” Omar Jadwat, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, told the Associated Press. "[It's] outrageous that the president can think he can override constitutional guarantees by issuing an executive order."
Essaheb says he and his colleagues at NILC aren't planning any direct actions to combat Trump's most recent statements, especially since there are so many other battles they're fighting now around DACA and the travel ban. Besides—Essaheb doesn't think Trump has a plan to advance threats to birthright citizenship that extend past next Tuesday, when voters are forecasted to help Democrats regain control of the House.
"We'll see if the administration puts something out, and at that point we'll look at it and take action," Essaheb says. "But between now and then we're focused on the things this administration has already done to harm immigrants, and policies currently in place that instill fear in immigrant communities.
"We'll address it when it comes," he says.