Trump plan tackles birthright citizenship

  • 30 October 2018
  • NormanL

In an interview with Axios that will appear on HBO, the president said he "plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil."

Ending "birthright citizenship" has been a goal of immigration restrictionists for some time, particularly those who wish to end so-called "anchor babies" and "chain migration." But it has long been assumed the only way to end the practice was through a constitutional amendment. The president says that's not the case:

"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump said, declaring he can do it by executive order.

When told that's very much in dispute, Trump replied: "You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order."

"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," Trump continued. "It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end." (More than 30 countries, most in the Western Hemisphere, provide birthright citizenship.)

"It's in the process. It'll happen ... with an executive order."

Should the White House employ an executive order to end the practice, legal challenges are guaranteed. However, Axios reports some conservative legal analysts believe the move would correct what they believe is an unconstitutional application of the 14th Amendment:

Until the 1960s, the 14th Amendment was never applied to undocumented or temporary immigrants, [Chapman University scholar John] Eastman said.

Between 1980 and 2006, the number of births to unauthorized immigrants — which opponents of birthright citizenship call "anchor babies" — skyrocketed to a peak of 370,000, according to a 2016 study by Pew Research. It then declined slightly during and following the Great Recession.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that children born to immigrants who are legal permanent residents have citizenship. But those who claim the 14th Amendment should not apply to everyone point to the fact that there has been no ruling on a case specifically involving undocumented immigrants or those with temporary legal status.

There's no indication when such an order might be signed. But if it is, buckle-up: this will be a contentious legal battle that could very well find its way to the Supreme Court.