President Trump announced last week that he was preparing an executive order to nullify the long-standing constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship in the US, one of the many aggressively anti-immigrant actions he and his administration have made leading up to the midterm elections, including sending over 5,000 troops to the US/Mexico Border. “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,” Mr. Trump falsely told Axios in an interview.
Canada, Mexico, and at least thirty other countries grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports restricting immigration. President Trump’s plan was criticized by many, including those in his own party. Retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan responded in a radio interview: “Well, you obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.”
Michael Anton, a former spokesman for President Trump’s National Security Council, and other conservatives argue that the 14th Amendment applies only to citizens and legal permanent residents, not undocumented immigrants. In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Anton writes: “The notion that simply being born within the geographical limits of the United States automatically confers U.S. citizenship is an absurdity—historically, constitutionally, philosophically and practically.”
Many civil rights groups have sharply criticized the proposal. Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says doing so would be illegal and offensive. “Aside from being unconstitutional, such an executive order would exacerbate racial tensions, exploit fears and drive further polarization across the country at a moment that calls for the promotion of unity and inclusion,” Clarke says in a statement. “The letter and spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment places those born in this country on equal footing, and an executive order that strips away citizenship would create a permanent group of second-class citizens and invite litigation.”