Ted Cruz Supports Amending the Constitution to End Birthright Citizenship

That sets the 2016 contender apart from Republican presidential candidates who have hesitated to call for a change to the Constitution.

Ted Cruz fields questions at The Family Leadership Summit at Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. (Scott Olson AFP/Getty)

Ted Cruz set himself apart from much of the 2016 GOP field—including Donald Trump—by saying on Wednesday that he'd support amending the Constitution as a way to end birthright citizenship.

Trump set off a firestorm of debate among 2016 Republicans after unveiling an immigration agenda over the weekend that calls for an end to birthright citizenship, a right enshrined in the Constitution by the 14th amendment, which grants citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in America.

Calling for an end to birthright citizenship is not new for the Republican field. Cruz has been on the record since at least 2012 saying that the U.S. should stop the policy of granting automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants at birth. Other 2016 GOP contenders, including Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, and Lindsey Graham, have either criticized or voiced support for ending the policy.

Cruz, however, went a step further than many 2016 Republicans when he suggested that he would be open to altering the Constitution to get rid of blanket birthright citizenship, during a radio interview with Michael Medved on Wednesday.

Asking if Cruz supported Trump's immigration agenda, Medved said: "What about the most controversial element of his plan, which is getting rid of birthright citizenship—saying to children who are born here in the United States of parents who are here illegally, 'You can't become American citizens'? Would you support a change in the 14th amendment if necessary to achieve that?"

"Absolutely," Cruz replied. "We should end granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of those who are here illegally."

When pressed on whether a change to the Constitution to end birthright citizenship would be realistic, Cruz said: "I think it is possible, but any constitutional amendment by its nature is difficult to achieve."

That stand sets Cruz apart from many leading 2016 contenders. It also appears to mark a departure from the way that Cruz broached the subject a few years ago. In 2011, Cruz suggested that he did not think it made sense to pursue a constitutional change to end the policy.

"I think it's a mistake for conservatives to be focusing on trying to fight what the Constitution says on birthright citizenship," Cruz said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "I think we are far better off focusing on securing the border. Because birthright citizenship wouldn't be an issue if we didn't have people coming in illegally."

Trump has taken a slightly different position, suggesting during an interview with Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday that the Constitution does not actually grant birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in America.

"Bill, I don't think they have American citizenship," Trump said.

When asked if he would support amending the Constitution, Trump seemed to throw cold water on the idea, saying: "It's a long process and I think it would take too long. I would much rather find out whether or not anchor babies are actually citizens."