OPED: Trump makes the case for a Democratic Congress

Michael R. Bloomberg
Bloomberg News
Migrants, one without shoes, wait in line for food handouts, as a thousands-strong caravan of Central Americans hoping to reach the U.S. border takes a rest day in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. Thousands of weary Central American migrants in a caravan rested Wednesday in southern Mexico while their representatives tried to negotiate transportation hundreds of miles ahead to the capital, but by evening there was bad news: they'd be walking again the next day. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

At a time when the nation is reeling from a horrific attack against a religious group that killed 11 Americans, and from a bomber who targeted people for their politics, President Trump has chosen to inflame rather than heal — for the most cynical of reasons: He hopes to boost the election prospects of Republicans. Politics doesn’t get much more dishonest and depraved than this.

The president’s decision to deploy more than 5,000 active-duty troops to the southern border to stop a caravan of a few thousand people reeks of partisan politics. The marchers are still weeks away, many of them are children, many have already turned back — and many more are expected to, as has happened with previous caravans.

Our border security and asylum officers are capable of handling this job, including turning away anyone who attempts to cross illegally. The only reason to send in troops — and to call the caravan an “invasion,” and to invoke “unknown Middle Easterners” — is to scare people and rile up the Republican Party’s base, in hopes of driving the most anti-immigrant voters to the polls.

It’s an ugly Halloween trick — and Americans must not be fooled. We can and must secure our borders without resorting to fear-mongering and hysterics — and without wasting the military’s time and resources on partisan stunts. We are a nation of immigrants, and we do not have to choose between honoring and welcoming immigrants and securing our borders.

Unfortunately, deploying troops is not the president’s only attempt to use immigration to divide Americans. This week he announced that that he would sign an executive order to end a sacred American right: citizenship for all born here.

Birthright citizenship dates to our founding and was enshrined in our constitution by the 14th Amendment, which reads: “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.”

More:Trump targets citizenship, stokes pre-election migrant fears

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One or two scholars can be found to dispute the plain meaning of that provision, but they are a tiny minority. Almost all, liberals and conservatives alike, agree that (except for the children of foreign diplomats) the Constitution guarantees that if you’re born in the U.S., you’re a U.S. citizen — and that’s that. Period, end of story.

This longstanding principle deserves to be celebrated as an American affirmation of inclusion. Instead, the president is seeking to unilaterally end it. That is more than an affront to our Constitution. It’s an abuse of his office.

It’s encouraging that House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced Trump’s proposal. “Well, you obviously cannot do that,” he said. Obvious, indeed. It’s disappointing — but not surprising — that other Republicans have supported the president’s position.

Not only is the president wrong on the Constitution, he’s wrong on the politics. Polls suggest that a substantial majority of Americans approve of birthright citizenship. But even those who question the idea should acknowledge that the president’s timing — announcing this on the eve of the election — is aimed at dividing the country on an issue that is already needlessly overheated.

The president says he will do a lot of things that he doesn’t end up doing. Let’s hope this is one of them. If he does go through it, he will lose in the courts. He doesn’t seem to care about that. But he should — and so should the public.

A president who feels unconstrained by the plain language of the Constitution is a president who desperately needs a Congress to check his power — something Republicans in Congress have refused to do.

I’ve never been a partisan person, but in this election, I believe that Americans who revere our Constitution — no matter what their party affiliation — should vote for Democrats, to ensure that Congress can check and balance a reckless and out-of-control president, and thwart his worst instincts.

We need leaders who will bring us together, and not stand for those who would rip us — and our Constitution — apart. There are many reasons to vote for Democrats in this election: Republicans in Congress have failed to lead on all the most pressing challenges facing our country. But preserving the integrity of our Constitution is the most important.

— Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. He is the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for climate action.