Birthright citizenship issue hits home for Chicago business couple

Story highlights

  • Donald Trump said he doesn't think people born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants are citizens
  • Trump's focus on immigration is forcing his Republican competitors to take a stand.

Chicago (CNN)A warm welcome and a special recipe for mangonada -- a mango ice cream cup topped with fresh mango slices and a tangy Mexican red sauce -- is the secret to their success, said Eladio and Judith Montoya, owners of Los Mangos, an ice cream and fruit shop in Chicago's Little Village.

"We weren't expecting the rapid growth. We opened our first location in 2012 and less than six months later, due to the great response from the people, we opened our second location," said Eladio Montoya, 35.
He and his wife, Judith, 33, became entrepreneurs when they conquered their fears three years ago and opened the doors of Los Mangos with $5,000 in savings. Today, they own seven locations across the Chicago metropolitan area and employ more than 50 people, with an eighth store on the way.
    "It was very scary," Judith said about expanding to a second and then third location. Eladio finished her sentence with a smile and said, "We decided to take that challenge and it worked out."
    But now they face another fear: what Donald Trump's rhetoric about ending birthright citizenship means for them and their extended family and friends, who include people who were born in America to undocumented immigrants.
    They are particularly troubled by his intimations that he would revoke the citizenship of those who have already received it.
    Trump said last week that he doesn't think people born in the United States to undocumented immigrants are citizens.
    "I don't think they have American citizenship, and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers -- and I know some will disagree, but many of them agree with me -- and you're going to find they do not have American citizenship. We have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell," the Republican presidential front-runner told Fox News on Tuesday night. Trump said he would "test it out" in the courts.
    Trump has called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants living in the United States, about 11 million people, and then allowing the "good ones" to return through an expedited legal process.
    On Wednesday morning, he was questioned by CNN's "New Day" co-host Chris Cuomo about his call to end birthright citizenship as granted under the 14th Amendment, which states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the state wherein they reside."

    Interpreting the 14th Amendment

    "The 14th Amendment is very questionable as to whether or not somebody can come over, have a baby and immediately that baby is a citizen," Trump told Cuomo.
    Trump didn't answer Cuomo's question about the retroactive application of his proposed policy, which if carried out, would mean Judith's two brothers, who were born to undocumented parents, could be stripped of their citizenship.
    Judith said she doesn't feel safe, either, even though by the time she was born, her parents had obtained legal residency through a granting of amnesty in the 1980s.
    Eladio and his family obtained legal residency in the 1980s through the amnesty, too, but he also thinks he could be affected if Trump's policy was imposed retroactively.
    Eladio said he was 6 years old when his mother crossed him and three of his siblings illegally from Mexico's northern state of Sonora into Arizona. He was the youngest of the group, but remembers the details of the voyage very well.
    "We crossed a fence that was broken. The person who was taking us, he guided us to the entrance and we just crossed," said Eladio, who remembers his mom maintaining a tight grip on his hand, because "she was scared."
    "We had nothing in Mexico," recalled Eladio, explaining that they had left for better opportunity. "We lived on a small ranch. There were 11 houses in that ranch."
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    He said he and his family boarded a plane to Chicago shortly after crossing the broken fence and arrived in the city's Little Village, a neighborhood that today is predominantly Latino.
    Eladio wondered how Trump's suggestion of allowing the "good ones" back after deportation would work.
    "I consider myself good," said Eladio, but he pointed out that no one really knows what constitutes a "good" immigrant.
    "Where does it stop?" Judith asked. "He said he's not going to separate families, that he's just going to send them back together, but where does it stop?"
    Trump's focus on immigration is forcing his Republican competitors to take a stand.
    Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have sided with Trump on the issue of birthright citizenship, though they acknowledge that changing it would be difficult.
    Still, they and other detractors argue that the country must enforce immigration laws and not unfairly reward those who break them by granting citizenship to their children -- and then potentially to the undocumented immigrants themselves who can then claim status through their children.
    In addition, they contend that the birthright citizenship clause, an outlier in the developed world, encourages more people to take the risk of entering the United States without permission in order to secure citizenship for their children.

    Some in GOP support birthright citizenship

    Not all Republicans want to rescind the practice. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush oppose the repeal of the 14th Amendment.
    But for the present time, Trump is gaining momentum and continues to lead the Republican race. Should his immigration policy come to pass, it could be life-changing for the Montoyas and their extended family.
    "Our life is here. Our homes are here," Judith said.
    "What is going to happen to our business? What's going to happen with our kids? What's going to happen to our employees?" Eladio asked, contemplating the prospect of losing his citizenship. "I would be forced to shut down our business that's creating jobs and feeding families."
    But the Montoyas say they are willing to put Trump's comments about Mexicans being "rapists" and "killers" aside and invite the real estate mogul to any one of their Los Mangos locations, where everyone, they say, is welcomed with a smile.
    "I want him to come here to my business and see that we are not criminals. We didn't come here to rob anybody," Eladio said. "We are not taking anybody's job."
    If Trump were to come, Eladio has a message for him: "We are making America great."