President Trump Challenges Birthright Citizenship


Casey McShea, Staff Writer |

Just two days before the midterm election, President Donald Trump announced via an Axios interview that he is planning to challenge a 150-year-old constitutional standard that anyone born in America is an American citizen. Trump told Axios that he plans to sign an executive order to “remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized born on U.S. soil.”

“How ridiculous, 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 with all those benefits,” Trump said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

The 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War and specifically says that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Birthright citizenship is the law in at least 30 countries, including many neighbors of the U.S. in North and South America. All off the countries in Europe grant automatic citizenship by jus sanguinis, which means “right by blood.” Some, such as France, also offer a path to children of immigrants to acquire citizenship at age 18.

Trump went on to say that he will be able to make the change with an executive order.

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“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment,” Trump said in the interview. “Guess what? You don’t. You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

The directive, according to Trump, has already been discussed with his legal advisers and “is in the process.”  “It’ll happen,” Trump said. “With an executive order.”

The news has taken over discussions on Twitter, with topics such as “Constitution,” “14th Amendment,” and “#BirthrightCitizenship” trending.

Bob Hugin, a Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey, tweeted, “The President is wrong to end #BirthrightCitizenship. We’re a nation of immigrants made better by the diversity of its people, especially in NJ. We need compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform now.”

Some fellow Republicans have both praised and rejected Trump’s planned action.

“This policy is a magnet for illegal immigration, out of the mainstream of the developed world, and needs to come to an end,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsey O. Graham, who has been pushing to end birthright citizenship since 2010.

In an interview with Lexington, Kentucky radio station WVLK, Wisconsin House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. You obviously can’t do that. You know, as a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”

Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine protested that “the U.S. presidency is not a dictatorship.”

“Patriotic Americans must rally to defeat the President’s unprecedented attempt to rewrite the Constitution on his own,” said Kaine.

The Axios interview did not make clear whether Trump would deny citizenships to the babies of any noncitizens, or just to those of immigrants in the country illegally. Many legal experts have said that Trump’s plan runs afoul of the Constitution.

Peter J. Spiro, a law professor at Temple University, said, “The conventional understanding [of the 14th Amendment] is absolutely clear that children born in the United States are citizens of the United States, with the insignificant exception of the children of diplomats.”

Others have been referring to United States v. Wong Kim Ark, a 1898 Supreme Court decision that ruled a child born in San Francisco to Chinese parents was a U.S. citizen, even though the parents were prohibited by the Chinese Exclusion Act from becoming citizens.

“To hold that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution excludes from citizenship the children, born in the United States, of citizens or subjects of other countries,” the court said, “would be to deny citizenship to thousands of persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German, or other European parentage who have always been considered and treated as citizens of the United States.”

Many are questioning whether the claim is even plausible or if it was just a political stunt, coming a week before the midterm elections. On Monday, the administration announced it was deploying over 5,200 troops to the southern border to block a caravan of Central American migrants, which is expected to arrive at the U.S. border next month.

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