Can, and will Trump really end birthright citizenship?

President Trump’s interpretation of the 14th amendment is merely another publicity stunt to get the media’s attention.

Image courtesy of the Washington Post.

Image courtesy of the Washington Post.

Nidhi Chilukuri, Staff Writer

As the country approaches the midterm elections, President Trump confronts the issue of illegal immigration in a completely different way; he’s looking at the 14th Amendment. Illegal immigration is an issue that has recently been at the forefront of our nation, and while I agree that it should not be encouraged, the president’s methods of dealing with the issue are far from acceptable. Trump’s latest idea has been met with skepticism because he is interpreting the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment in a way that will end birthright citizenship.

The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment, enacted in 1868, states “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.” The clause clearly states that anyone born in the country is automatically a citizen, but Trump and his supporters argue that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” means that the authors didn’t intend to give citizenship to the children of temporary visitors and other non-citizens. They are looking to sign an executive order that will end the practice of birthright citizenship.

Many legal experts and conservatives are also questioning whether Trump can actually eliminate birthright citizenship. “Trump may have a lawyer who is telling him the 14th Amendment means something else, but that lawyer is like a unicorn.” Rebecca Hamlin, a professor of legal studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said. Hamlin expresses that few immigration and constitutional scholars believe the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” has a great deal of significance. Furthermore, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said “You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. You know as a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution. And I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very, lengthy constitutional process.” Even former President Barack Obama agrees that Trump cannot remove birthright citizenship with an executive order. “A president doesn’t get to decide on his own who’s an American citizen and who’s not,” Obama said.

Trump is also not certainly not well-versed in the statistics of birthright citizenship, seen from erroneous statements he has made. “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 … with all of those benefits,” Trump said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.” However, over 30 countries, including Canada, provide birthright citizenship. If Trump was seriously considering this idea, he would not be making such blatantly incorrect statements. To me, it appears that the President has no real power to remove birthright citizenship, and he is simply using it to elevate his platform for the midterm elections. With this claim, he is able to garner the attention of prospective voters who may not be sure who to vote for. In addition, he is also strengthening his base. The chances of him actually putting out an executive order are low, and people will likely forget about it after the midterms.