President Donald Trump believes he can end birthright citizenship, granted to the children of noncitizens when they are born on U.S. soil, by way of executive order — despite the blatant unconstitutionality of such a move.
Trump’s assertion comes just one week before election day and caps weeks of hostile rhetoric toward the caravan of Central American migrants headed to the U.S. border.
The action, which Trump previewed in a television clip broadcast Tuesday, would be the most aggressive by a president elected to office pledging to take a hard line on immigration, an issue he has revived in advance of next week’s midterm elections.
“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,” Trump said during an interview with Axios scheduled to air as part of a new HBO series starting this weekend. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
Trump and his fellow Republicans have turned to immigration in recent weeks in an effort to mobilize the president’s base ahead of midterm elections, which could see the party lose control in at least one chamber of Congress.
In recent weeks, Trump has also repeatedly called attention to a migrant caravan making its way toward the U.S.-Mexico border, invoking it as a symbol of what he sees as wrong with the U.S. immigration system and blaming Democrats for a lack of action.
The president has long denounced the notion of so-called “anchor babies”, and he indicated his legal counsel believes he is within his power to end the practice by executive order.
However, this view is at odds with most legal scholars, The Post noted.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump told Axios.
When told that view is disputed, Trump asserted: “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
“It’s in the process. It’ll happen . . . with an executive order,” he said, without offering a time frame.
Should Trump go through with the move, legal challenges will ensue.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, immediately condemned the president’s intentions:
“The president cannot erase the Constitution with an executive order,” Jadwat said. “This is a transparent and blatantly unconstitutional attempt to sow division and fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms.”
An executive order would be certain to spark a constitutional debate about the meaning of the 14th Amendment. It reads: “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.”
Trump’s claim that the U.S. is the only country to grant citizenship to those born on its soil — an apparent attempt to support his move — is false.
NumbersUSA, a group that favors reduced immigration, has compiled a list that shows 33 nations grant citizenship to anyone born within their borders.
The list includes Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and most other countries in Central and South America. The United States and Canada are the only two “developed” countries, as defined by the International Monetary Fund, that have unrestricted birthright citizenship laws.