Things That Matter

Trump Administration Plans To End Birthright Citizenship And They Say A Constitutional Amendment Isn’t Necessary

The acting United States Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli told the Christian Science Monitor, at a breakfast they hosted, that he believes a constitutional amendment isn’t required to end birthright citizenship. When Newsweek tried to corroborate this claim with constitutional law experts, they disagreed. 

“Yes, it would require a constitutional amendment, and almost everyone else working on this topic would agree,” Ian Bartrum, a law professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas told Newsweek.

However, threats to end birthright citizenship — as stated in the 14th amendment that anyone born in the U.S. is a citizen — should not be taken lightly. Amanda Frost, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, penned an op-ed for the Atlantic which claims citizenship is in a fragile state due to an onslaught of the Trump Administration’s policies. 

Is an end of birthright citizenship coming? Ken Cuccinelli certainly hopes so.

“I do not think you need an amendment to the Constitution. I think the question is do you need congressional action or can the executive act on their own,” Cuccinelli told the Christian Science Monitor. 

Cuccinelli was echoing the hope of President Trump who stated in August that he was considering ending birthright citizenship “very seriously.” 

“Where you have a baby on our land, you walk over the border, have a baby,-congratulations, the baby is now a US citizen…It’s frankly ridiculous,” Trump said. 

As early as October 2018, Trump alleged he would use an executive order to end it, however then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dismissed Trump’s claims as legally impossible because “the Fourteenth Amendment is pretty clear.” 

Why do we need a new constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship?

The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868 states clearly, “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.”Meaning anyone born in the U.S. (regardless of their parent’s status) or anyone who goes through the legal process of becoming naturalized is a citizen of the United States. Constitutional Amendments are the legal foundation of our government, changing them is not so easy. In order to repeal an old one, a new one is necessary. For example, the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933 was ratified to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited alcohol. 
To pass a new amendment would require three-fourths of states (34 states) to ratify the amendment and make it law. Thus, many have dismissed the idea that ending birthright citizenship would ever be possible — 34 states would never agree. This is why Cuccinelli’s statements have experts and advocates vexxed. 

Can we end birthright citizenship through congressional action like Cuccinelli says? 

One can only speculate if Cuccinelli is referring to the process of proposing an amendment that would require a two-thirds majority in Congress but this method would still necessitate ratification by 34 states and would still be an amendment. It is unclear what method of congressional action or executive action would result in ending birthright citizenship. 

The Daily Beast reported that in 2008, Cuccinelli urged congress to call a constitutional convention to amend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “to clarify specifically that a person born to a parent who is a U. S. citizen is also a citizen of the United States,” in order to exclude children born to undocumented parents.

As Newsweek notes, “[Law professor] Bartrum mentioned that the 14th Amendment was created to overturn the Dred Scott case, which allowed states to deny citizenship to the descendants of former and freed slaves. He noted that overturning that amendment would be questionable.”

Nevertheless, birthright citizenship is still in a precarious position as threats mount against it.

In “The Fragility of American Citizenship,” Amanda Frost highlights that the Trump administration has chipped away at the premise that all you would need to prove that you’re a citizen is a birth or naturalization certificate. The Trump administration has created a denaturalization team dedicated to investigating 700,000 naturalized citizens. 

One man, Baljinder Singh, had his citizenship revoked under the Trump administration, despite being naturalized and living here for three decades because a government official spelled his first name incorrectly when he arrived in the United States as a teenager. Birthright citizens are being attacked too. 

“Take, for example, retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Enrique Martinez. His birth certificate stating he was born in Texas was good enough for the U.S. Marine Corps. Nonetheless, the State Department refused his application for a passport on the grounds that it was insufficient proof that he was a U.S. citizen,” Frost wrote. 

Frost believes these denials and denaturalizations are an, “attack on the citizenship of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities.”

Could The U.S. Actually Ban Americans From Using TikTok? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

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Could The U.S. Actually Ban Americans From Using TikTok? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

With millions of teens and young adults – a demographic I think I still fit – under lockdown orders thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans turned to TikTok.

The fun, 15-second video app has been downloaded more than 200 million times in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, with users sharing everything from dance and recipe videos to starting now-viral trends. The app is loved by its users and they’re proving they’ll stand by it when it comes under threat. Which is exactly what they’re doing now as the Trump administration has announced a potential ban on TikTok.

According to some officials, Trump is looking to ban TikTok.

According to senior administration officials – and Trump himself – the TikTok app is a threat to U.S. national security and at risk of being banned in the country. Some are suggesting it’s a way for Trump to retaliate against China over its handling of the Coronavirus, others suggest it’s Trump retaliating against ‘TikTokivists’ who helped make his Tulsa rally a total disaster. Either way, news of a possible ban on TikTok has sent its users into overdrive.

Trump’s comments came after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told Americans not to download the app unless they want to see their private information fall into “the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Trump didn’t offer specifics about a potential decision and Pompeo seemed to walk back the idea of a ban in a later statement, saying that the U.S. efforts to protect American consumers’ data don’t relate to any one particular company.

TikTok, an app known for quirky short videos, is facing political heat because of its ties to China.

Credit: Getty Stock Images

TikTok has in fact come under increased scrutiny in recent months – not just in the U.S. – for it’s ties to China. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company and many countries around the world are worried about that connection. Citing national security concerns, India banned TikTok last week. The US Army and Navy have banned service members from downloading the app to government-issued phones. Even Amazon has raised concerns. On Friday, the huge online retailer barred employees from using the app on devices that connect to the company’s email, citing “security risks.”

TikTok has tried responding to the issue. In an interview with CNBC, a TikTok spokesperson said, “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

The company has also made it clear that all data from American citizens is stored outside of China, on servers based in the United States. The company claims that its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of their users’ data is subject to Chinese law.

Meanwhile, many TikTok users say they care less about potential Chinese snooping and more about Trump taking away their digital hangout. In the U.S., TikTok has been downloaded more than 165 million times, according to Sensor Tower.

“I don’t believe Trump is trying to take TikTok away because of national security, but more to retaliate against activism on the app and all the videos about him that drag him through the mud,” said Darius Jackson, an 18-year-old TikTok user, in a statement to CNBC.

“This is the first year I’ll be able to vote and I think activism on TikTok is going to make a big difference,” Jackson said.

Many view the move as retaliation for Trump’s failed Tulsa rally.

Credit: Mark Short / Getty Images

It’s hard to forget the epic fail that was Trump’s Tulsa rally. His planned ‘relaunch’ of his 2020 campaign after being forced to suspend his massive rallies because of Coronavirus.

Leading up to the event, Trump had touted record-shattering interest and ticket sales for the rally. He went so far as to say that millions of Americans had RSVP’d for it – and he wasn’t actually lying this time. However, there was one minor problem – hundreds of thousands of tickets were actually reserved in a massive campaign by Korean pop stans and TikTok users.

Thanks to a TikTok campaign, Trump’s ‘massive’ rally was an utter disaster attended by only a few thousand people. Many suggest that this campaign cold be why Trump is looking to target TikTok with some sort of ban.

Since the announcement, ‘TikTok Teens’ have launched a full-fledged assault against the Trump administration.

One of the pettiest (ie. best) moves the collection of ‘TikTokivists’ has made so far, is that tens of thousands flooded the Apple App Store and left scathing reviews of the Trump 2020 Campaign app. On Wednesday alone 700 negative reviews were left on the Official Trump 2020 app and 26 positive ones, according to tracking firm Sensor Tower.

“For Gen Z and Millennials, TikTok is our clubhouse and Trump threatened it,” said Yori Blacc, a 19-year-old TikTok user in California who joined in the app protest. “If you’re going to mess with us, we will mess with you.”

The efforts to push the app low enough so that Apple will remove it from the app store may be misguided. Apple doesn’t delete apps based on their popularity. The App Store may review those that violate its guidelines or are outdated, but not if their ratings sink. A similar tactic was tried in April to protest Google Classroom by kids frustrated with quarantine home-schooling.

But can the U.S. government actually ban an app?

According to most legal experts, the answer is no. Sure, the administration could attempt to but thanks to the U.S. legal system, a total ban wouldn’t last. Administrations have limited authority to ban outright any specific piece of software, like an app. But it could potentially lobby Congress to enact legislation that targets TikTok.

A Section Of Border Wall Is At Risk Of Falling Into Rio Grande Months After Being Called The ‘Lamborghini Of Border Walls’

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A Section Of Border Wall Is At Risk Of Falling Into Rio Grande Months After Being Called The ‘Lamborghini Of Border Walls’

Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Trump’s vanity project – that so many of his supporters hail as his greatest accomplishment – has hit another major setback. His planned border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has consisted of a mix of government-built and privately-built segments, and now one of the highest-profile segments is at literal risk of falling over into a river. How’s that for karma?

The segment in Texas, which its developer called the ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls, was poorly built along a massive flood plain and now erosion has left it in shambles, mere months after construction.

The “Lamborghini” of border walls is in danger of falling into the river if nothing is done.

Trump supporters funded a private border wall on the banks of the Rio Grande, helping the builder secure $1.7 billion in federal contracts. Now the “Lamborghini” of border walls is in danger of falling into the river if nothing is done, experts say.

This ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls is different from those that came before it, in that it could allegedly be built directly on the banks of the Rio Grande – a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.

But engineering experts and hydrologists told ProPublica that despite the company’s claims, the wall was built too close to the Rio Grande and is in serious danger of collapse, as photos show “a series of gashes and gullies” along the base of the structure that have severely weakened the structure’s foundation.

According to reports, the foundation for the wall’s steel poles reach only 2.5 feet into the ground, less than one-third as deep as government usually requires. The shallow foundation combined with the rugged riverbank terrain is reportedly a recipe for disaster.

“When the river rises, it will likely attack those areas where the foundation is exposed, further weakening support of the fence and potentially causing portions … to fall into the Rio Grande,” Alex Mayer told ProPublica.

The geography of the Rio Grande has long been a roadblock to wall construction in the region.

Credit: Bend Bend National Park / USFS

A border wall has long existed in one form or another along much of Texas’s southern border. But it’s often existed miles away from the actual border with Mexico, thanks to the region’s diverse and difficult terrain. The Rio Grande Valley’s unique geography includes a wide floodplain that has forced the government to construct barriers inland, on top of a levee system. That has left swaths of farmland, cemeteries and even homes in a kind of no man’s land south of the fence.

Jude Benavides, a hydrologist, told ProPublica, that “People don’t appreciate the power of the Rio Grande when it does indeed wake up. It changes the landscape.”

The contractor has used the segment in Texas to secure billions of dollars worth of contracts to build additional wall in Arizona.

Just this May, the company, Fisher Sand & Gravel (FSG), a won a record-high $1.3 billion government contract to built a portion of Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. They won the approval even though the government’s own Army Corps of Engineers spoke out against FSG’s prototype for lack of “quality” and “sophistication.”

But like so many other Trump projects, the president inserted himself directly into the bidding process – helping FSG gain the contracts. No surprise: FSG’s director, Tommy Fisher, has been a frequent guest on Fox News and has played into Trump’s latest frustrations regarding his wall project, promising he would be able to build it faster and cheaper than any other contractor on the project.

The segment in Texas was built using private donations from some of Trump’s biggest supporters.

Credit: Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

As Trump faced opposition against his border wall vanity project in Congress, several non-profit groups sprung up in support of his border wall plan. That’s exactly how Fisher’s private fence projects got off the ground.

Both the New Mexico and South Texas projects were built with financial and political help from We Build The Wall, an influential conservative nonprofit – Trump supporter and political strategist Steven Bannon is a board member. In touting its project, the group claimed to have raised more than $25 million and agreements with landowners along 250 miles of riverfront property across Texas.