Arrington Cunningham composite (copy)

Republican Katie Arrington and Democrat Joe Cunningham, candidates for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District.

Support for President Donald Trump's plan to end birthright citizenship is breaking along party lines in South Carolina, including in the race for Charleston's seat in Congress.

Republican Katie Arrington backs the president's push to halt citizenship rights for children born to illegal immigrants on American soil, while Democrat Joe Cunningham calls the proposal "a distraction."

The issue barreled onto the political stage Tuesday exactly one week before the pivotal midterm elections that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the House and Senate.

Trump mulled ending the legal practice in an exclusive interview with Axios. The president also said his administration can end birthright citizenship by issuing an executive order, something that some constitutionalists have taken issue with. 

Trump's plan was immediately backed by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship," Graham said in a statement issued by his office.

He plans to introduce legislation that would echo Trump's executive order. 

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., issued a statement saying he is open to a review.

"We are a nation of compassion, and a nation of laws," it read. "For too long, our immigration laws have been taken advantage of, and, in this case, may actually encourage illegal immigration. I look forward to reviewing proposals set forth by both the White House and my colleagues in the Senate, and taking an important step forward in reforming our immigration system.”

South Carolina lawmakers have long supported ending the practice, which is rooted in the 14th Amendment. Five of the state's six Republican congressmen co-sponsored a bill to end birthright citizenship last year. Only outgoing U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy did not sign onto the bill that has not moved out of committee.

"I am glad that President Trump is elevating this issue as part of the larger immigration discussion," said U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens. He added, "I'm glad that the president is focused on actual solutions, and not temporary remedies, to the problem of illegal immigration."

He couldn't speak to Trump's plan for an executive order until he sees the wording.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the state's only Democrat in Washington, also called the issue a distraction ahead of next week's important midterm elections.

"No president can simply re-write the United States Constitution unilaterally," Clyburn said. "This is an obvious attempt to distract attention from the fact that the Affordable Care Act, student loan debt and affordable housing are on the ballot this year. We won’t be duped by this foolishness."

Graham has historically been outspoken on immigration issues.

When Trump proposed creating a merit-based system in 2017 to entice high-skilled workers to come to the United States but not those in the agriculture and tourism industries, Graham said the proposal would be "devastating" to South Carolina's economy.

Graham has also repeatedly advocated for the so-called "Dreamers."

His bipartisan Dream Act, which he introduced with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, would provide a legal pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.

In the Charleston congressional race, both sides took a different tack. Cunningham took issue with Trump's legal reasoning, and argued that a constitutional amendment would be required for Trump make this change.

"We're interested in following the laws of the land at the border and within our borders, " Cunningham told The Post and Courier, adding he didn't want to follow the path of the president's ability to say "wild things and have us respond to them."

Arrington said she would "absolutely" support Trump's idea.

"If you're not a U.S. citizen, they shouldn’t be coming here to have a baby," Arrington told the newspaper, adding, "Our resources are already pretty tight."

In the Axios interview, Trump was critical of how the process has been used and stated that he has talked to legal counsel about changing the process.

"We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits," Trump said in the interview, which is scheduled to air in-full on Sunday as part of an upcoming HBO series.

But at least 30 countries recognize the principal of jus soli, where a person’s citizenship is based on the land of their birth, according to media reports.

Schuyler Kropf and Andy Shain contributed to this report.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590. Follow her on Twitter at @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.