Son of Indian immigrants to the US, Ramaswamy took a strong position on the issue at the Second Republican presidential debate on Wednesday by challenging the interpretation of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which says “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the laws and jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.”
But Ramaswamy is challenging that interpretation, arguing that it does not bestow the right of birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.
“Nobody believes that the kid of a Mexican diplomat in this country enjoys birthright citizenship. Not a judge or legal scholar in this country will disagree with me on that. Well, if the kid of a Mexican diplomat doesn’t enjoy birthright citizenship, then neither does the kid of an illegal immigrant who broke the law to come here,” he argued.
Ramaswamy’s pledge came when he was asked by Univision host Ilia Calderón “what legal premise” he would use to expel undocumented immigrants and their American-born children from the country. He began by noting that his opponents onstage “are on the right side of this issue” by supporting the militarization of the southern border, defunding “sanctuary cities,” and ending foreign aid to Mexico and Central America. But he would go a “step further” by ending “birthright citizenship for the kids of illegal immigrants in this country.”
The 14th Amendment’s interpretation has long been questioned by hardline Republicans who argue that the phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” referred to slaves/slavery, not illegal immigrants/illegal immigration. Because of this, Ramaswamy argued, children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States should not be granted citizenship, “because their parents broke the law” in entering the country illegally.
“As the father of two sons, it is hard for me to look them in the eye and say, ‘You have to follow the law,’ when our own government fails to follow its own laws,” Ramaswamy, whose parents immigrated legally, said.
Former president Donald Trump had taken a similar line when he first ran for the White House in 2015 and had threatened to issue an executive order that would end automatic citizenship to those born in this country to noncitizens. But he never carried out his threat because there is a broad consensus in the US to hew to the 1898 Supreme Court interpretation.