Maria Elvira Salazar dances around Donald Trump birthright citizenship proposal

Maria Elvira Salazar

Republican Maria Elvira Salazar appears to be playing to both side of the controversy surrounding Donald Trump‘s proposal to end birthright citizenship via an Executive Order.

Salazar is competing with Donna Shalala in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Trump claimed Tuesday that he was reviewing whether to use an EO to revoke birthright citizenship as a way to combat illegal immigration. By removing citizenship for children of parents who are in the country illegally, the reasoning goes, fewer families would make the trip to give birth within the U.S.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution serves as the basis for providing that those born inside U.S. territory are automatically granted citizenship.

Legal scholars very much dispute whether that reality could even be changed by an EO, as do several of Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stated flatly, “You cannot end birthright citizenship with an Executive Order.” And on Twitter, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said, “I strongly disagree with the proposed Executive Order.”

Salazar was in that camp as well, tweeting Tuesday, “@realDonaldTrump, our Constitution is sacred! Birthright Citizenship is protected and you cannot change that by executive order. Focus efforts on immigration reform that secures our borders and is true to our legacy of being a nation of immigrants.”

But the next day, she changed her tune. Speaking with the media after voting with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Republican gubernatorial running-mate Jeanette Nunez, Salazar seemed at least open to the idea.

“It is also true that this is a country of laws and a country where you have to respect the Constitution and if the Constitution says that people born in this country have to become American citizens, but we have to see which ones, and who they are and under what rules — not just anyone,” Salazar said in comments flagged by the Miami Herald.

“The first clause of the 14th Amendment needs to be reviewed, but I think the President is saying what I think my community shares, the fact that we do not want abuses.”

Perhaps Salazar’s outrage expressed in her tweet is simply directed at the use of an EO, but she is otherwise open to the idea of revoking birthright citizenship altogether. Or perhaps Salazar changed her mind in the course of a day.

A request for comment to the Salazar campaign clarifying her position on the issue is pending.

The Florida Democratic Party hammered Salazar’s comments in a statement obtained by Florida Politics.

“It’s typical for Republicans like Maria Elvira and Donald Trump to ignore basic civics just to stoke divisiveness and fear in our communities,” said Javier Hernandez, spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party.

“First Republicans went after Dreamers, then they locked immigrant children up in cages, and now they shamefully target the constitutional birthright of American children simply based on who their parents are. Voters have an opportunity this November to reject Republicans like Maria Elvira Salazar who will rubber stamp Trump’s disastrous immigration policies.”

As for the likelihood that this change will ever occur? Well, it’s complicated.

The relevant portion of the 14th Amendment reads, emphasis mine, “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.”

So anyone born in the U.S. becomes a citizen, so long as they are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.

Proponents of revoking automatic birthright citizenship argue that immigrants here illegally are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S., as their loyalty remains to their country of origin.

But other legal scholars argue the meaning of the clause is much more narrow. Essentially, that clause only exempts people such as ambassadors, who retain exemptions from U.S. law even on U.S. soil.

In contrast, people here illegally are still very much subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. They can be charged with crimes, held in jails and charged with breaking U.S. law, just as if they were a citizen.

What Trump seemingly wants to do is use an EO to alter the definition of that portion of the 14th Amendment.

Short of that, Trump also proposed having Congress enact a law clarifying the language. Either way, the action would almost certainly lead to a fight within the courts to hash out the meaning of the 14th Amendment as it applies to birthright citizenship.

Incidentally, Trump’s own judicial nominations could stop his proposal if it ever gets that far.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704