Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr said Tuesday that he does not support President Donald Trump's proposal to end citizenship for children born in the United States to non-citizen parents.
Trump made the comments to "Axios on HBO" one week before the midterm elections, where immigration has become a key issue. One of the most competitive races in the country is in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, where Barr faces a tough challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath.
Barr told reporters in Kentucky that the Constitution is clear that anyone born in the U.S. is a citizen. He said Trump can't change the Constitution by executive order, but said, "we do join the administration in their efforts to secure our border."
"I don't think we need to change the Constitution, I think we need to secure the border," he said.
Barr's comments followed an appearance with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. Earlier in the day, Ryan appeared on WVLK radio in Lexington, where he said Trump cannot end birthright citizenship on his own. He said Republicans did not like it when former President Barack Obama changed immigration laws by executive order, adding that "obviously as conservatives we believe in the Constitution."
Mark Nickolas, McGrath's campaign manager, said the campaign "agrees with Speaker Ryan on this issue."
Immigration has been a major issue in the 6th Congressional district, a seat Democrats believe is crucial to their effort to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Barr has run TV ads accusing McGrath of supporting "open borders" that would "enable drug cartels to flood our towns with heroin and fentanyl." The claim appears to be based on McGrath's prior statements that Trump's plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border was "stupid."
McGrath has said she opposes "open borders." She visited the U.S.-Mexico border this summer, speaking with agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and "immigrants fleeing drug violence in Central America." In a TV ad, McGrath said: "Washington politicians like Andy Barr only use immigration as a scare tactics rather than actually trying to solve the problem."
Ryan was in Kentucky to visit Toyota Tsusho, a key supplier for Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, where the company makes its flagship Camry sedan. Ryan and Barr spoke to a group of employees at an event that was open to the media but closed to the general public. Ryan praised Barr as "the architect of our plan against opioids," referring to recently enacted legislation that provided more money for drug treatment and recovery programs.
An employee asked Ryan and Barr about the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum, which have increased prices. Barr said his "ideal level of a tariff is zero" and that he is working with the administration to do that. Ryan said he "wasn't a fan of tariffs," but said Trump's strategy has succeeded in getting U.S. allies to renegotiate trade deals that would then allow everyone to confront China together on what he says is their unfair trade practices.
"That is ultimately what the president is up to, and I agree with that," Ryan said.
On Monday night, McGrath criticized Barr during a televised debate for not doing enough to resist the president's trade policies.
"We need to do is elect leaders who don't just sit there and say, 'Well I'm for free trade, but really I'm only for free trade when the president of my political party is for it,'" she said.
Barr noted he has opposed the tariffs, adding McGrath would have "zero influence with this administration" if elected.