Birthright citizenship: Can Trump eliminate it?
President Trump thinks he can change one of the most fundamental parts of our Constitution “with the stroke of a pen,” said Garrett Epps in TheAtlantic.com. American citizenship has been the birthright of everyone born in the United States since the 14th Amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War. But as part of his anti-immigrant crusade, President Trump is now threatening to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship for anyone whose parents are not citizens. An authoritarian order of that kind would leave millions of people born here in legal limbo. The Constitution plainly states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” are American citizens. Nevertheless, the idea “has crawled slowly from the fever swamps of the far right into the center of our discourse.”
Actually, it’s birthright citizenship that’s unconstitutional, said Michael Anton in USA Today. The 14th Amendment was written to guarantee citizenship to freed black slaves and their descendants. Illegal immigrants and their children aren’t “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States as the former slaves were. “If the Framers simply intended to make citizens of any person born in U.S. territory, then that central clause has no purpose.” Not true, said Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. We know from the historical debates at the time that the 14th Amendment applied to everyone except children born to foreign diplomats and Native American tribes, which were considered foreign nations at the time. Otherwise, everyone in the U.S. is subject to the jurisdiction of our laws, including illegal immigrants. “Strengthen border security. Build the wall. But leave the Constitution alone.”
Trump’s argument may be radical, said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com, but “he is the president” and “his words have weight.” Just by putting birthright citizenship on the table, Trump has emboldened some Republicans to echo him; a conservative Supreme Court tilted by Trump appointees might decide to revisit the issue. Even from a conservative perspective, however, said Lyman Stone in TheFederalist.com, ending birthright citizenship would be a mistake. “If you think it’s hard to assimilate immigrants now,” imagine a permanent underclass of millions of people born in America with no legal rights, no allegiance to this country, and no country to return to. They’d resent and despise the U.S. for turning them into stateless nonpersons. “That’s a recipe for disaster.”