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Rand Paul explains why he wants to stop ‘birthright citizenship’

"I'm not sure we need to change citizenship." (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

In his ongoing war with Donald Trump, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has portrayed the tycoon-cum-candidate as a chameleon, a late-comer to conservative policies that Tea Party activists (like Paul) advocated for years. Among those policies: Changing interpretation of the 14th Amendment to prevent "birthright citizenship." In 2011, just days into his Senate career, Paul joined Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on a resolution which would have clarified "that under the 14th Amendment a person born in the United States to illegal aliens does not automatically gain citizenship." Just three months into his Senate career, Vitter, Paul, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wrote new legislative language on this.

That went nowhere, but Paul has not changed his mind. During an interview in Haiti this week, he said that the current reading of the 14th Amendment was problematic as long as it inspired undocumented immigrants to come to the United States and give birth.

"If you are looking at border security, and we’re going to have a secure border, then I’m not sure we need to change citizenship," Paul said. "Birthright citizenship is a beacon for the world. So is what we did for the Dreamers. Birthright citizenship -- it is what it is. That's the way the law has been interpreted. But is it a good idea to do that with an open border? Probably not."

The issue of citizenship as a birthright is especially volatile in Haiti. In 2013, the Dominican Republic's Supreme Court ruled that anyone born in the country after 1929, who did not have at least one native-born Dominican parent, would be stripped of citizenship. The decision was largely seen as a way to get more than 250,000 Haitians to leave the country. An international outrage stalled action on the ruling for years, but deportations have begun -- and were taking place on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border just 45 minutes from the city where Paul was performing eye surgeries on poor people this week.

The argument in the DR, and in the United States, boiled down to this: Who deserved to be a citizen? According to Paul, there had to be reasonable limits, and it was better in the long run for countries to be stabilized than for their people to leave in search of work.

"Pew did a poll a while back, interviewing people in like 50 countries, and they came up with an estimate that if anybody could come to America, 700 million people would come," Paul said. "So we'd double, triple the population. You can’t probably exist with that kind of mass migration. For a country to be a country, it has to have borders. The answer isn’t to let Haiti to move to America. The answer is fixing Haiti. It's the same for a lot of countries."