By Neal Earley
There has been a bipartisan backlash to President Trump’s statement declaring he will undo birthright citizenship via an executive order.
Trump told a reporter from Axios in an interview that will be aired Sunday that he plans to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship in the United States.
While Trump insisted that ending birthright citizenship can be done via an executive order, both Republican and Democratic leadership dismissed Trump’s claim, saying birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, cannot be undone through the stroke of a pen.
“Like dictators and authoritarians all over the world, Donald Trump now proposes to use the revocation of individual citizenship as a political weapon and a tool of racial demagoguery,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8). “As usual, his tyrannical instincts run headfirst into the Constitution, which guarantees, in the 14th Amendment, citizenship to all persons born here.”
The states ratified the 14th Amendment shortly after the Civil War as a way of guaranteeing rights to newly-freed African-Americans. The first section of the 14th Amendment is where birthright citizenship is guaranteed, stating, “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.”
But in the interview with Axios, Trump said he thought the concept that anyone who is born within the borders of the United States gets to guaranteed citizenship is ridiculous, saying he discussed with White Houses counsel signing an executive order to change that.
“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 — it’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous,” Trump said.
While most countries do not guarantee birthright citizenship, the United States is not alone in giving automatic citizenship to people born within its borders. Other countries such as Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Jamaica also have birthright citizenship.
The comments from Trump have also brought condemnation from Republican leadership. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WIsc.) told WVLK the he disagrees with Trump and his legal counsel that he can end birthright citizenship.
“Well, you obviously cannot do that,” Ryan said. “You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. We didn’t like it when Obama tried changing immigration laws via executive action, and obviously as conservatives we believe in the Constitution.”
While Trump told the reporter from Axios that he didn’t know if people were aware of his plans to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship, many are claiming Trump has purposely made the issue a distraction just a week before the midterm elections on Nov. 6.
“President Trump’s move is blatantly unconstitutional, and another politically-motivated effort to stoke divisions, because he knows that, as we head toward the midterm elections, the country is united in opposition to Republican plans to take away protections for people with pre-existing health conditions and to cut Medicare,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
While Ryan came out against an executive order ending birthright citizenship, some Republicans such as Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) have come out for it, promising they would support legislation that would end the birthright citizenship.
Trent Leon-Lierman, a regional organizer with the immigrant advocacy group CASA, noted that Trump’s comments are motivated by racism.
“This is another Trump racist idea, amongst a slew of others, to keep the country as white as possible for as long as possible,” he said.
Advocates for ending the practice of birthright citizenship have cited a quote from Sen. Jacob Howard, one of the authors of the 14th Amendment, stating birthright citizenship is not intended to be universally applied to all.
“This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons,” Howard said in an 1866 Senate debate on the 14th Amendment.
But those defending birthright citizenship have argued that, even with Howard’s statement, it still applies to the children of foreigners who are born in the United States.