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Paul Ryan says "you cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order"

Legal questions on birthright citizenship

House Speaker Paul Ryan disagreed with President Trump about the constitutionality of eliminating automatic citizenship for people born in the United States. Ryan's comments came after Mr. Trump told "Axios on HBO" on Tuesday that he plans to sign an executive order to "remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S.-soil."

"You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order," Ryan said in a Tuesday interview with "Larry Glover Live" on WVLK. "We didn't like it when Obama tried changing immigration laws via executive action, and obviously as conservatives we believe in the Constitution."

Mr. Trump said in his interview with Axios that the concept of automatic citizenship was "ridiculous."

"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Mr. Trump said about ending birthright citizenship. At least one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, has said that he agreed with Mr. Trump about the citizenship issue, and that he would be sponsoring legislation similar to any executive order Mr. Trump might issue on the matter.

However, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump could end automatic citizenship just by executive order. The first clause of the 14th Amendment states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." And Ryan said that he thought "in this case, the 14th Amendment is pretty clear." 

Ryan said that he agreed with Mr. Trump that illegal immigration needed to be addressed, but that this was not necessarily the best strategy.

"We, House Republicans and this President, are in total agreement on the need to stop illegal immigration. To secure our border and fix our laws," Ryan said. "I think the smarter, faster solution here is to crack down on illegal immigration and we obviously support doing that. But, I'm a believer in the Constitution, I believe in interpreting the Constitution as it's written, and that means you can't do something like this via executive order."