LOWER MANHATTAN -- It's a proposal that's sent shockwaves out from the Oval Office to points nationwide, but President Donald Trump's statement that he intends to try and end birthright citizenship to the children of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants is getting a particularly strong reaction in the Tri-state region.
Three New York City boroughs -- Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan -- are among the ten counties in the U.S. with the highest numbers of immigrants nationwide, and reaction to the president's proposal was, to say the least, met with a lot of anger and outrage here.
"All of the people who still lift him up, all of the people who are silent, you are full of s**t," said New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams.
He did not mince words as part of a city council news conference reacting to comments President Trump made in an interview released on Tuesday morning.
"They're saying that I can do it with an executive order," the president said to two interviewers for the show Axios on HBO, regarding ending the right to citizenship for people born in the U.S. to non-citizens or unauthorized immigrants. The right, called birthright citizenship, is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On Sunday, the interview with the president will be broadcast.
"We're the only country in the world, where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years," he said.
The president was wrong. In fact, the U.S. is one of more than 30 countries, almost all in the Americas and the Caribbean, that recognize birthright citizenship.
Canada and Mexico, along with ten Caribbean countries, ten South American countries, six Central American countries, plus Fiji, Tuvalu and Tanzania, all have full birthright citizenship. At least two dozen other countries have limited birthright citizenship.
"Had this policy been in effect when I was born, I would not have gotten my United States citizenship" said attorney Jose Xavier Orochena. "I wouldn't have been able to join the military, I wouldn't have been able to become a lawyer."
Orochena was born in New York to parents who at the time did not have full naturalized status, but he's had a distinguished military and legal career, including having represented Yeni Gonzalez-Garcia and other mothers whose children were separated from them at the southern U.S. border.
He said that the president's executive order proposal restricts a whole class of people from "sueño americano" -- the American Dream.
Another attorney, Chris Cabanillas, has become an expert on the birthright citizenship issue, through his court cases. He pointed out that the 14th Amendment is settled law. It has also been at the core of other major legal precedents, including Brown v. Board of Education, which challenged racial segregation; Roe v. Wade, regarding abortion rights; Bush v. Gore, which decided the outcome of the 2000 U.S. presidential election; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects marriage rights for all adults.
"These sort of calls to narrow or change the laws suddenly show [that the White House is] not going to play by the rules as we understood them to be, but to rather make their rules as they go along," Cabanillas said.
On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, took a verbal swipe at the president's proposal.
"You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order," he said.
However, at least one prominent U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham, applauded the president for at least trying to alter the birthright citizenship situation.
"Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship," Graham said in a set of tweets that also indicated that he intends to introduce legislation that would end birthright citizenship. "I’ve always supported comprehensive immigration reform — and at the same time — the elimination of birthright citizenship," Sen. Graham said.
A wide variety of political pundits and observers questioned whether or not the president's statements as grandstanding, since they came to surface exactly one week before the midterm elections.