October 31, 2018
In a direct gift to his political base just a week before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump says he is preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the United States, according to an October 30 report by The New York Times.
According to a same-day story by Axios, “This would be the most dramatic move yet in Trump’s hardline immigration campaign, this time targeting ‘anchor babies’ and ‘chain migration.’ And it will set off another stand-off with the courts, as Trump’s power to do this through executive action is debatable to say the least.”
Playing fast and loose with the truth, the president told Axios, “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. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
In fact, dozens of other countries, including Canada, Mexico, and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restricting immigration.
Doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an idea that Trump pitched as a presidential candidate, the Times reported—but there is no clear indication that he would be able to do so unilaterally, and attempting to would be certain to prompt legal challenges.
Indeed, to outlaw birthright citizenship, the POTUS would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “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.”
Amendments to the Constitution cannot be overridden by presidential action, the Times noted— and can be changed or undone only by overwhelming majorities in Congress or the states, with a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of state legislatures.
But some conservatives argue that the 14th Amendment was meant to apply only to citizens and legal permanent residents—not immigrants who are present in the country without authorization.
Whether or not the idea is legal or actionable the president is accomplishing what he thinks needs to be done in the next seven days—appealing to a base of voters who are key to Republican domination in the U.S. Congress.
Research contact: @juliehirschfelddavis