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“Privileged Bloodlines”: Is Trump’s Stance Against Birthright Citizenship Setting Tone for GOP?

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Support is growing among Republican presidential candidates to repeal part of the 14th Amendment that guarantees people born on American soil are automatically American citizens. In his plan for immigration reform, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump singles out birthright citizenship as the single “biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” And Donald Trump is not alone. Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham all support ending birthright citizenship. We speak to Ian Millhiser of Center for American Progress who recently wrote a piece headlined “Donald Trump’s First Policy Plan is Even More Racist Than You Think It Is.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Support is growing among Republican presidential candidates to repeal part of the 14th Amendment that guarantees people born on American soil are automatically U.S. citizens. In his plan for immigration reform, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump singles out birthright citizenship as the single, quote, “biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” Speaking to NBC’s Chuck Todd on his private plane, Trump said the United States has no choice but to get rid of birthright citizenship.

CHUCK TODD: You want to get rid of birthright citizenship?

DONALD TRUMP: You have to get rid of it, yes. You have to. What they’re doing, they’re having a baby, and all of a sudden, nobody knows. The baby’s here.

CHUCK TODD: You believe that—

DONALD TRUMP: You have no choice.

CHUCK TODD: You believe that they’re trying to do this—

DONALD TRUMP: You have no choice.

CHUCK TODD: —when they’re coming here.

DONALD TRUMP: Let me tell you, when we have some good people—we have some very good people here. We have a lot of really good people. They’re illegal. You either have a country or not. We go out—

CHUCK TODD: You’d get rid of birthright citizenship.

DONALD TRUMP: And we’re going to try and bring them back rapidly, the good ones.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump. But he’s not alone. Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, these presidential Republican candidates all support ending birthright citizenship.

Joining us from Washington, D.C., is Ian Millhiser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He’s the author of the book, Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted. He recently wrote a piece headlined “Donald Trump’s First Policy Plan is Even More Racist Than You Think It Is.”

Ian, explain.

IAN MILLHISER: Sure. So, this idea of eliminating birthright citizenship, this goes back to the worst Supreme Court decision in American history, the Dred Scott decision. Dred Scott said that people’s citizenship is something that essentially is a hereditary right. It flows from people who are the sort of people who were citizens at the founding, and if you have the right bloodline, then you get to be a citizen. If you don’t have the right bloodline—and what they meant in Dred Scott was the descendants of African slaves—then you don’t get to be a citizen. Donald Trump wants to bring this notion of tainted bloodlines back. Now, here he’s not talking about the descendants of African slaves; he’s talking about the descendants of undocumented immigrants. But it’s the same offensive notion that drove that Dred Scott decision, that citizenship is something that comes only to people with privileged blood, that—that is driving this proposal.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, in other words, Trump’s immigration plan, he wants—he’s in favor of family reunification by deporting everyone—the parents, the grown—

IAN MILLHISER: Right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —the grown youths, the babies—by removing their birthright citizenship, as well.

IAN MILLHISER: That’s right. I mean, it’s a hugely cruel plan. You know, he wants mass deportation. I’ve seen estimates as much a $600 billion worth of deportations he’s pushing. He wants—one way that he said—I mean, there are so many cruelties latent in this proposal. One thing that he wants to do is to get rid of remittances, where families come over to the United States, or part of a family comes over to the United States, they work, and then they send money back to their abysmally poor families in the nation they came from. He wants to get rid of that. So, you know, his idea here is to hold families together in abject poverty and then, of course, to keep them from being able to be in the United States while they’re suffering through that poverty.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to another aspect of Donald Trump’s immigration plan. He told NBC’s Chuck Todd the executive order on the DREAM Act would be rescinded under his presidency, as well.

CHUCK TODD: What do you do about the DACA order now, where you’ve had this [inaudible] the DREAM Act, however you want to refer to it, the executive order that the president—that is—that is—

DONALD TRUMP: The executive order gets rescinded. One good thing about—

CHUCK TODD: You’ll rescind—you’ll rescind that one, too?

DONALD TRUMP: One good thing about—

CHUCK TODD: You’ll rescind the DREAM Act executive order, the DACA?

DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to have to. We have to make a whole new set of standards. And when people come in, they have to come in with—

CHUCK TODD: So you’re going to split up families? You’re going to deport children?

DONALD TRUMP: Chuck, Chuck, no, no. We’re going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together, but they have to go.

CHUCK TODD: But you’re going to keep them together out.

DONALD TRUMP: But they have to go.

CHUCK TODD: What if they have no place to go?

DONALD TRUMP: We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country, or we don’t have a country.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Donald Trump speaking to Chuck Todd. That’s right, keep immigrant families together, deport them all. Well, shortly after Donald Trump released his immigration reform proposal, Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also came out in support of changing the Constitution, rescinding birthright citizenship, during an MSNBC interview with Kasie Hunt.

KASIE HUNT: Do you think that birthright citizenship should be ended?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, like I said, Harry Reid said it’s not right for this country. I think that’s something we should—yeah, absolutely, going forward, I think.

KASIE HUNT: You should end—we should end birthright citizenship?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Yeah, to me, it’s about enforcing the laws in this country. And, you know, I’ve made it very clear: I think you enforce the laws, and I think it’s important to send a message that we’re going to enforce the laws. No matter how people come here, we’re need to uphold the law in this country.

KASIE HUNT: And you should deport the children of undocumented immigrants who are not citizens?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: I didn’t say that. I said you need to enforce the law, which, to me, is focusing on E-Verify.

AMY GOODMAN: And on Monday, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, another Republican presidential hopeful, also came out in support of ending birthright citizenship. But in an interview with CNN, he criticized Donald Trump’s immigration plan as “gibberish” and “nonsensical,” and said it would kill the Republican Party.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think it’s a bad practice to give citizenship based on birth. We have evidence of people buying tourist visas for the express purpose of coming over here, having a child. It’s birth tourism. I don’t think that’s a good idea. But that’s not going to happen until we fix a broken immigration system. Donald Trump’s eight-page plan is absolute gibberish.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you have Lindsey Graham, you have Governor Walker. You have Donald Trump setting the agenda. Ian Millhiser?

IAN MILLHISER: Right. I mean, let’s be clear: Birthright citizenship is something that’s been in the Constitution for 150 years. This was put in there after the Civil War. So the idea that we—that it’s created some sort of crisis—you know, if it has created a crisis, then you have to believe that we have been in a state of crisis for 150 years. It’s just not a tenable position. It’s certainly true, though, that, you know, when Donald Trump entered the race, we thought he was a clown show. You know, we thought he was the comic relief in this race. And what has happened instead is that the reality TV show host is driving much of the Republican Party’s policy here. You know, you see all these people, sitting senators, sitting governors, who are supposed to be the serious folks, lining up behind this racist, ridiculous policy to eliminate something that’s been in our Constitution for 150 years.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and, Ian, what does this do to the Republican brand among the voters, given the fact that now immigration, which was—became an albatross, the issue around Republican candidates in the last presidential election, is now becoming such a major topic of discussion among these candidates?

IAN MILLHISER: Right. I mean, I think, ultimately, that’s up to the voters. I mean, I have a good friend who’s a DACA recipient, and I want her to be able to continue to work and to continue to live in this country. So, it would hurt me if Donald Trump got his way. There are a lot of families who would be even more hurt if they discovered that their brothers, their sisters, their children, their parents were going to be deported by this policy. So I hope that voters are going to look at this, and many of them are going to recoil, because they’re going to realize what’s going to happen to them, their friends and their families if these policies go into effect. But ultimately, you know, this election is always going to come down to turnout. And it depends upon whether voters look at these policies, that aren’t just Trump’s policies now, that are fast becoming the policies of the Republican Party, and say, you know, “I need to make sure that I turn out at the polls and I have my say in what’s going to happen here.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, speaking to CBS on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush dismissed Trump’s immigration proposal, saying that birthright citizenship was a constitutional right.

JEB BUSH: That’s a constitutional right. And Mr. Trump can say that he’s for this, because people are frustrated that it’s abused. And we ought to fix the problem rather than take away rights that are constitutionally endowed.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ian, Jeb Bush here separating himself from the pack?

IAN MILLHISER: Somewhat. I mean, you know, Jeb did take a slightly more moderate position, although if you read his whole statement, what he essentially said is, “Look, amending the Constitution is too hard.” At one point he said that if he had a magic wand, there’s 10 different things he’d do to change the Constitution. But because it’s too hard to amend it, he instead wants to look for ways to crack down on immigration that he can do without amending the Constitution. So, you know, I think that Jeb’s bringing more of a practical lens in the sense that he’s saying, “Look, like, this is a very difficult way to go about our shared goal of making life more difficult for immigrants.” But it doesn’t change the fact that his goal and, you know, what he said throughout that is: “Here are all of these other ways that I want to crack down on immigration.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ian Millhiser, we want to thank you for being with us, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, editor of ThinkProgress Justice. His book, Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted. When we come back, we’ll be joined by the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston. He’s got 21 questions for Donald Trump. Stay with us.

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