Republican candidate for Kansas governor Kris Kobach is defending President Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship through an executive order. Kobach has argued on cable news channels this week that the Constitution doesn’t guarantee citizenship to everyone born in the country.
The Kansas secretary of state said on CNN Wednesday that the children of people here illegally, or just visiting the country, aren’t covered by the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship on birth.
“Those words have meaning,” Kobach said. “It was never intended to be, if you’re born here and no other criterion is met, you get to become a citizen.”
Kobach cites part of the 14th Amendment to justify his argument.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.
Kobach argues the section reading "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" is the key. The children of people simply visiting the U.S. or in the country illegally are not subject to the jurisdiction of the country. He said that was the intent of the people who framed the 14th amendment.
"If you're a foreign diplomat, if you're a foreign visitor," Kobach said on Fox News, "that child doesn't become a citizen."
Kobach argues Trump can block birthright citizenship with an executive order because it wouldn’t conflict with other federal laws.
Trump’s legal reasoning has been widely disputed, including by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
"Well, you obviously cannot do that," Ryan told radio station WVLK. "You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order."
The focus on immigration is another appeal to Kobach’s conservative base of voters as he enters the final week of a tight race for governor with Democrat Laura Kelly.
Kobach had a combative exchange with a CNN commentator during his appearance. Jeffrey Toobin called Kobach’s voter registration policies, such as requiring photo ID, racist.
“Kris has devoted his career to stopping black people and poor people from voting," Toobin said. "That’s been your goal for decades."
Kobach fired back at Toobin.
“If you like photo ID you’re trying to stop people of color from voting?” Kobach asked. “That is an outrageous accusation.”
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse Reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service.