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Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine speaks during the vice-presidential debate with Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine speaks during the vice-presidential debate with Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine speaks during the vice-presidential debate with Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde October 7, 2016

Tim Kaine said Trump ticket wants to deport 16 million, end birthright citizenship

Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, said he and Hillary Clinton support comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together, while Donald Trump wants to deport millions of people.

"Donald Trump proposes to deport 16 million people, 11 million who are here without documents. And both Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to get rid of birthright citizenship," Kaine said during the vice presidential debate Oct. 4. "So if you're born here, but your parents don't have documents, they want to eliminate that. That's another 4.5 million people."

Kaine continued to say the Republican ticket has called for a deportation force and that they want to go "house to house, school to school, business to business, and kick out 16 million people."

Pence said it was nonsense.

So we wanted to know: Has Trump proposed to deport 16 million people, and do the Republican candidates plan to "get rid of" birthright citizenship?

Kaine’s tally of 16 million possibly deported by Trump includes people who are in the country illegally (about 11 million) and U.S. born children of undocumented parents (about 4.5 million, according to Pew Research Center).

As Trump began his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination, he presented an immigration plan that called for an end to birthright citizenship, saying it is "the biggest magnet for illegal immigration."

That was the old version of Trump’s plan. Trump outlined his latest immigration plan a year later, on Aug. 31 in Arizona. His 10-point plan did not call for deporting 16 million people or ending birthright citizenship. He emphasized that he wanted to deport 2 million "criminal aliens."

Trump’s ‘deportation force’ days

Kaine’s comments aren’t unfounded.

Trump has not been consistent on immigration throughout his campaign.

In that same Arizona speech, Trump talked about the broader undocumented population having to leave first in order to come back: "Those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only: To return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else."

Clinton’s campaign pointed out a line in that speech where he said "anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation."

Leading up to the primaries, Trump said he wanted undocumented families to stay together, but "they have to go."

In a September 2015 interview on 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley asked Trump what he would do with 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally. "If they've done well, they're going out and they're coming back in legally ... We're rounding 'em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way," Trump said.

In November 2015, a day after one of the Republican primary debates, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC asked Trump, "How do you deport 12 million illegal immigrants?"

"You do it. You do it. Because they're here illegally, you do it," Trump responded.

In that same interview, he said, "you’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely."

Birthright citizenship

So Trump has talked extensively about deporting the undocumented population, some faster than others. But that doesn’t mean he necessarily wants to deport their U.S.-born children.

Trump hasn’t talked about birthright citizenship and "anchor babies" much since the heyday of the GOP primary. In November, Trump said a constitutional amendment would not be needed to deal with the citizenship of children born in the United States to undocumented parents.

"You need an act of Congress. You don't have to go through a new amendment or anything, a new constitutional amendment," Trump said November 2015 in an MSNBC interview. "But anchor babies. A woman is pregnant; she goes over to the border, has a baby on our land, now we take care of the baby for the next 85 years."

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Trump’s campaign did not respond to questions about his current position on birthright citizenship. Trump’s call for an end to birthright citizenship is no longer prominently featured in the immigration reform section of Trump’s campaign website, but a file of his first plan outlining it is still available.

The 14th Amendment established birthright citizenship, which says "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."

That clause of the amendment is widely understood to mean that everyone born on U.S. soil is automatically an American citizen, despite parents’ immigration status.

Pence, Trump’s running mate, cosponsored the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009, introduced in the House but never brought to any vote.

The bill sought to amend immigration law to consider a person born in the United States "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States if the U.S.-born person has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen or national; a lawful permanent resident living in the United States; or an immigrant performing active service in the U.S. Armed Forces. So that would have prevented U.S.-born children of two parents without lawful or military status from obtaining citizenship.

It is technically possible to end birthright citizenship for persons born in the United States to undocumented immigrants by repealing the 14th Amendment, said Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute.

Otherwise, a measure like Pence’s bill that is signed into law could be challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court over 14th Amendment concerns.

A big jump, plus legal concerns

To reach 16 million deportations, Kaine assumes the citizenship of 4.5 million people who were born on U.S. soil to parents in the country illegally would be retroactively taken away under Trump.

Trump said several times in 2015 that he does not think citizenship should have been granted to people with undocumented parents. But he has not proposed to deport them all or outlined a plan to revoke birthright citizenship that’s already been granted. 

The Clinton campaign disagrees, pointing to an August 2015 exchange between Trump and Bill O'Reilly, who asked, "Illegal immigrant mother and father living in Los Angeles, two children who are American citizens, born here.  If you're president do you order authorities to take that family into custody?"

Trump answered, "We have no choice. I'm sorry, Bill. We have to bring them out."

Trump's responses to similar questions were also vague. In another August 2015 interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, he said undocumented parents would have to leave and unless they were "bad" parents they would take their baby with citizenship with them.

Again, that wasn't a clear proposal to deport 4.5 million people with citizenship. Doing so would invite even more legal challenges than trying to remove or alter the 14th Amendment.

"Such a retroactive statute would clearly be far more controversial than merely changing the rules prospectively," said David A. Martin, an immigration, constitutional law and international law scholar and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Any retroactive stripping of citizenship to those born in the United States to undocumented parents would likely be challenged by the courts, Costa said, because "they acquired citizenship under the longstanding interpretation of the law and the Constitution that was in effect at the time they acquired it."

Such a retroactive law would be considered an "ex post facto" law (which means making an act illegal even though it was legal when committed). Ex post facto laws, which generally apply to criminal penalties, are prohibited by the Constitution.

"I'm sure that it would be unconstitutional to change the birthright citizenship rule retroactively, probably as a violation of substantive due process," said Peter Schuck, an emeritus professor of law at Yale University.

Our ruling

Kaine said, "Donald Trump proposes to deport 16 million people. 11 million who are here without documents, and both Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to get rid of birthright citizenship."

Trump has talked about the entire undocumented population of about 11 million people having to leave the country at some point in order to come back and reside legally. But Kaine assumes Trump would try to deport 4.5 million people who have citizenship because they were born in the country to undocumented parents. Trump has said birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment is questionable but has not proposed retroactively stripping it away and deporting this group.

Trump did call for an end to birthright citizenship during the primary. His most-recent immigration plan does not mention the idea, though he has not renounced it altogether. As for Pence, he co-sponsored a bill seven years ago to amend birthright citizenship eligibility to children who have at least one parent with legal or military status.

Kaine’s statement is partially accurate, so we rate it Half True.


Clarification: The fact-check was updated shortly after publication to account for more of Trump's comments on birthright citizenship. The rating remains unchanged.

Our Sources

Medium, PolitiFact annotated transcript of vice presidential debate, Oct. 4, 2016

Email exchange, Donald Trump campaign, Oct. 4, 2016

Email exchange, Hillary Clinton campaign, Oct. 4, 2016

The Washington Post, Transcript of Donald Trump’s immigration speech in Arizona Aug. 31, 2016

PolitiFact, As Donald Trump prepares immigration speech, mass deportation at issue, Aug. 30, 2016

Donald Trump campaign website, immigration reform plan

The Washington Post, Here’s what Donald Trump said in his big immigration speech, annotated, Aug. 31, 2016

Pew Research Center, Number of babies born in U.S. to unauthorized immigrants declines, Sept. 11, 2015

PolitiFact, Rubio says 40% of illegal immigrants stayed in the U.S. after their visas expired, July 29, 2015

PolitiFact, Trump: 'Many' scholars say 'anchor babies' aren't covered by Constitution, Aug. 25, 2015

Cornell University Law School, 14th Amendment

Congress.gov, H.R.1868 - Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009

Email interview, Daniel Costa, director of Immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, Oct. 4, 2016

Email interview, David A. Martin, a Warner-Booker Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Law, Oct. 4, 2016

Email interview, Peter Schuck, an emeritus professor of law at Yale University, Oct. 5, 2016

CNN, Donald Trump promises 'deportation force' to remove 11 million, Nov. 12, 2015

NBC News, Donald Trump: Undocumented Immigrants 'Have to Go,’ Aug. 16, 2015

Fox News, Trump says he's open to 'softening' immigration laws in 'Hannity' town hall, Aug. 24, 2016

YouTube, Donald Trump interview on Fox News’ "On the Record," Aug. 26, 2016

CBS News, Trump gets down to business on 60 Minutes, Sept. 27, 2015

PolitiFact, Donald Trump wrongly says the number of illegal immigrants is 30 million or higher, July 28, 2015

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Tim Kaine said Trump ticket wants to deport 16 million, end birthright citizenship

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