President Trump Threatens Birthright Citizenship

Ceilidh Kern, Reporter, Co-Editor in Chief

Just days before the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump resurrected an old campaign promise of nullifying the U.S. birthright citizenship policy established by the 14th Amendment, the move seen as an obvious final attempt to excite and motivate his base to vote on Election Day.

This announcement was another in a long line of attempts that Trump and his allies had made throughout the campaign season to enflame already-rampant xenophobic sentiment amongst his supporters and to focus their party-wide campaign on immigration fearmongering.

The 14th Amendment was an addition made to the Constitution initially in order to grant citizenship to every African-American freed from slavery by the 13th Amendment. However, its powers extend beyond those families: as stated by the amendment itself, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States […] are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

In the most basic terms, the amendment grants U.S. citizenship to every person born on American soil, regardless of where their family is from or their parents’ citizenship status. According to the president during an interview with 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 […] with all of those benefits […] It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

He went on to explain how nullifying the 14th Amendment “can definitely [be done] with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying [the president] can do it just with an executive order.”

Despite the president’s claims, the United States is by no stretch of the imagination the only country to grant birthright citizenship – at least 30 other countries around the globe do so as well, according to The New York Times.

And that’s not the only part of his interview that was factually incorrect: it is legally impossible for the president to amend the Constitution via executive order. Although executive orders hold quite a lot of power and often go unchecked by the other branches of government, amending the Constitution requires the approval of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures, not just the approval of the president.

And it’s not just President Trump’s political opponents calling him out for his apparent lack of knowledge about the inner workings of the Constitution – outgoing Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in an interview that the president “can obviously not [amend the Constitution via executive order],” adding that any amendment procedure “would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”

The president’s comments sparked outrage and hysteria among Americans across the country as they feared that family members and friends who were American citizens solely because of birthright citizenship would be stripped of that citizenship and deported to countries they’d never known. However, if by some inexplicable turn of events that amendment were done away with, current children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States would likely have nothing to fear when it came to the status of their citizenship, seeing as it is incredibly unlikely an amendment nullifying the 14th Amendment would retroactively revoke the citizenship of those individuals.

Even so, the president’s ideas still threaten the future of the next generations of children born in the United States to undocumented immigrant parents, and his arguments have only added fuel to the fire of the intense battle raging in the U.S. over immigration, a fight continuing to divide the country as Americans struggle to determine the path the country should take next.