Responding to news this week that President Donald Trump would like to use an executive order to rescind the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to persons born on American soil–which he can’t actually do–Rep. Mike Coffman, facing increasingly likely defeat next Tuesday, responded in a way that sounded fairly critical:
I hate to break the news to President Trump, but the Supreme Court isn’t going to let him rewrite immigration law by executive fiat, nor should they. We have a Constitution. The President should take heed and follow it.
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) October 30, 2018
In Spanish, so there’s no confusion as to the target audience:
Lamento informarle al Presidente Trump que la Corte Suprema no va a permitir que él reescriba ley migratoria vía orden ejecutiva, ni lo deberían. Tenemos una Constitución. El Presidente debe prestar atención y seguirla.
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@MiRepCoffmanCO) October 30, 2018
Since Trump took office, Coffman has had plenty of opportunities to triangulate off the president’s hard-line statements on immigration, and he’s taken some of them. Eliminating the constitutional guarantee of citizenship for children born on American soil is certainly one of the most controversial and aggressive moves Trump has proposed on immigration yet. Obviously, it’s in Coffman’s best interests to put as much daylight as possible between himself and this proposal with the swing voters he’s won over with his moderate tone.
Unfortunately for Mike Coffman, when it comes to the issue of “birthright citizenship,” there’s a problem.
The problem is that Mike Coffman himself co-sponsored legislation to rescind birthright citizenship, in both 2009 and 2011. This was back when Coffman was doing his best to uphold his congressional predecessor Tom Tancredo’s hard line anti-immigrant legacy, and before redistricting in 2011 redrew Coffman’s district to include a far more diverse and immigrant-heavy constituency. After that time, of course, these bills morphed from political asset to massive political liability; and Coffman has tried mightily to live them down, and reinvent himself wholesale on the issue.
But as you can see, Coffman can’t criticize Trump on the underlying issue, just the constitutionality of him doing this by executive order, without exposing himself as a hypocrite–even though it’s likely that Coffman’s legislation to rescind “birthright citizenship” would have run up against the 14th Amendment’s plain language too. Once you know Coffman’s true history on this issue, his weak statement of protest against Trump is exposed as a lame attempt to cover up Coffman’s own record. At the very least, a reporter needs to ask Coffman specifically what has changed between 2011, when he sponsored legislation to do exactly what Trump is proposing, and today when he wants voters to think he opposes it.
Better ask soon, though, because after next Tuesday it might not matter.