President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order that would seek to end the right to U.S. citizenship for children born in the United States to noncitizens.
“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 of those benefits,” the president told Axios as part of an HBO series set to air this weekend. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
Trump said he has discussed ending birthright citizenship with his legal counsel. He believes the move can be accomplished with executive action; legal scholars, however, disagree.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said. “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order. It’s in the process. It’ll happen… with an executive order.”
The president’s comments are largely seen as an attempt to whip up support for Republican candidates ahead of the midterm elections, in which immigration is a key issue for the GOP base. The move earned a harsh rebuke from the American Civil Liberties Union.
This is a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms.
— ACLU (@ACLU) October 30, 2018
The National Immigration Law Center condemned Trump’s statements as “a cheap attempt to score political points before next week.”
At this point, Trump is throwing a bunch of nationalist immigration policies at a wall and seeing what will stick. We should see this for what it is, a cheap attempt to score political points before next week. Trump may be president, but he isn’t above the 14th Amendment. https://t.co/eacwiUC4sM
— National Immigration Law Center (@NILC_org) October 30, 2018
Others concurred, with some pointing out that executive orders cannot bypass or overturn the Constitution. Trump long criticized his predecessor, Barack Obama, for his use of executive orders.
If Trump nullifies the 14th Amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship, none of our rights in the Constitution are secure. We have a dictator whose political party controls all three branches of government with no checks nor balances on his power. This is a national emergency.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) October 30, 2018
Trump Can’t End Birthright Citizenship. It’s in the 14th amendment of the constitution. No executive order can overturn the constitution. Full stop.
— John Avlon (@JohnAvlon) October 30, 2018
Trump is attempting to shift the news cycle away from your local elections and midterms.
Do not be fooled. Continue to organize, mobilize and vote.
The 14th amendment, a nation of immigrants and #BirthrightCitizenship can be protected by OUR VOTE.
Let’s make history.
— Matt Deitsch (@MattxRed) October 30, 2018
The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides 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.”
The Supreme Court, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, upheld this rule for legal permanent residents. The court has never decided a citizenship case involving an illegal immigrant or a short-term visitor to the United States.
Attorney Dan McLaughlin, in a National Review column last month, noted that “A proper originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, as presently written, guarantees American citizenship to those born within our borders, with only a few limited exceptions.”