President Donald Trump announced that he wants to get rid of birthright citizenship, a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to babies born in the U.S. The 14th Amendment also dictates the way state representation is decided via population totals. The president’s threat against the 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship is not new. He has spoken out against it for years, which he refers to it as “chain migration” and “anchor babies.” But first, here’s an explainer about what the 14th Amendment is all about.
The U.S. Constitution states that under the 14th Amendment, all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens.
In 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified in the constitution, and while it’s an extensive and detailed law that includes five sections, the gist is:
“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. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The last part is particularly interesting because it says: “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” This means that it’s the job of Congress to make sure that the law is protected, and that the people are protected under it as well.
In an interview with Axios, Trump incorrectly said: “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. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
There are 30 countries, including Canada and Mexico, that have the same law giving citizenship to all people born in that country.
Trump said that he could revoke the 14th Amendment exclusively by signing an Executive Order, but that is wrong.
POTUS can't eliminate a constitutional birthright citizenship by executive order. It's a distraction & it would be harmful to the people and values of our country, which has always been welcoming to immigrants.
This is a political stunt.
— Voto Latino (@votolatino) October 30, 2018
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said in the interview, adding that. You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.” He ended by saying: “It’s in the process. It’ll happen with an executive order.”
The president fails to comprehend that his signature cannot modify the constitution simply because he is the president. If that were the case, the constitution could be changed at any moment by any president.
Instead, an amendment needs to be proposed by two-thirds of the Congress or by a constitutional convention by two-thirds of state legislatures.
After a couple of months of announcing his presidential run he said, in 2015, that he would look into whether or not the 14 Amendment applied to children he called “anchor babies.”
Trump has spent his presidency furthering an anti-immigrant agenda by applying travel bans to predominately Muslim countries, attempting to block DACA, threatening to revoke asylum laws and revamping ICE protocol. Each time he has attempted to implement laws against these groups, lawyers have continuously brought lawsuits against him, and won.
“Birthright citizenship is a fundamental right cherished by Americans since the abolition of slavery,” The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement. “Immigrants and their children make this nation great. We should celebrate our nation’s diversity, and not demonize our citizens. We won’t hesitate to legally act if President Trump attempts to undermine our Constitution and the right of citizens born in the United States.”
Political pundits and immigration activists say the latest announcement is a distraction as midterm elections draw closer.
Disappointed, but unsurprised at the people who are saying that Trump’s assault on birthright citizenship is a “distraction” and that we should ignore it.
Immigrants + black and brown people don’t have the privilege to ignore Trump’s assaults on our lives.
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) October 30, 2018
While Axios says that these words by Trump is his “most dramatic move yet” against the 14th Amendment, we know he cannot do this.
Trump has spoken out many times against immigrants including the recent caravan of refugees from Central America. The caravan is still hundreds of miles away from the U.S. and are walking to the border. They are expected to arrive to the U.S. and legally ask for asylum in about a month, long after the midterm elections.
The president’s rhetoric has been blamed for fueling extremists, such as the recent explosive devices sent by a Florida man, and the Pittsburgh killing of 11 Jewish individuals by a white nationalist.
The president has yet to comment further about his attempt to veto a constitutional law, which would be unconstitutional.