Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger, Josh Hawley, had little to say Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s latest comments on immigration as he hammers on the issue a week before the midterm election.
In an interview on HBO released online Tuesday morning, Trump said he had spoken with White House counsel about issuing an executive order denying citizenship rights to children born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents. He falsely claimed the U.S. is the only country in the world with such a system.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous, and it has to end,” Trump said.
Trump’s proposal would likely set up a battle over the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the U.S. The amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War and granted citizenship to former slaves.
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While neither McCaskill nor Hawley commented on whether children born to non-citizens should be citizens, they agreed Trump couldn’t change the 14th Amendment with an executive order.
Asked at a campaign stop in Riverside whether the president could change the constitution with an executive order, Hawley, a constitutional attorney, said “of course not,” but said he would need to see the executive order to comment on Trump’s proposal.
“I’m not sure what he has in mind,” Hawley said. “I do think that — I’m against chain migration. I think that we need to secure the borders. Sending the 5,000 troops, I think, is absolutely necessary. I wish Sen. McCaskill would vote for a border wall and then we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
In a statement, McCaskill said she doesn’t believe “any president can change the Constitution through executive order.”
Her campaign did not comment on whether she believes children of non-citizens should be citizens.
McCaskill and Hawley are neck-and-neck in a race that could determine the balance of the U.S. Senate and have sparred often over immigration.
In stump speeches, Hawley has criticized a bill co-sponsored by McCaskill to end family separations at the border as the “most radical open-borders bill ever introduced” in Congress.
McCaskill’s campaign disputed that, pointing to a Politifact fact-check that took issue with Hawley’s claim the bill gives a “free pass” to undocumented immigrants who bring children to the border.
McCaskill has claimed to be a moderate on immigration, touting her endorsement by the National Border Patrol Council and saying there are things that can be done to secure the U.S. border other than a wall.