In an exclusive interview with Axios on Oct. 29, President Donald Trump said he plans on signing an executive order that will end birthright citizenship, which is when citizenship is given to children born on United States soil to noncitizens and unauthorized immigrants.
For years, Trump has decried “anchor babies,” who he claims cause unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S. However, this is the first legal action Trump has planned on taking against them. The potential executive order opposes the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the state wherein they reside.” The amendment also states that no state can make a law that takes away the privileges or immunities that come with being an American citizen.
“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 those benefits,” Trump said in the interview. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous, and it has to end.”
Contradictory to the president’s statement, there are 30 countries that currently provide birthright citizenship. Most of them are in the Western Hemisphere and include Canada and Mexico.
Although Trump said he can change U.S. immigration and citizenship policy via an executive order alone, it is likely the other branches of government will need to extensively review and debate its legality within the Constitution. When Axios told Trump the legality of the potential executive order is debatable, Trump reiterated that he has to power to change the policy.
“You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress,” Trump said. “But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence backed the legality of Trump’s potential executive order in an interview with Politico on Oct. 30. In the interview, Pence suggests that the 14th Amendment could only apply to the children of natural-born citizens or authorized immigrants.
“We all cherish the language of the 14th Amendment,” Pence said. “But the Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled on whether or not the language of the 14th Amendment — ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ — applies specifically to people who are in the country illegally.”
On Oct. 30, the American Civil Liberties Union opposed Trump’s statements. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told CNN the proposed action is completely out of line with the Constitution.
“The president cannot erase the Constitution with an executive order, and the 14th Amendment’s citizenship guarantee is clear,” 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.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan reflected the same sentiment in a Kentucky WVLK radio interview Oct. 30, in which he said Trump cannot change citizenship through an executive order.
“You obviously cannot do that,” Ryan said. “You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.”
Senator Lindsey Graham voiced his support of the executive order via Twitter, claiming the current policy is a main cause of illegal immigration to the U.S.
“Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship,” Graham tweeted. “This policy is a magnet for illegal immigration, out of the mainstream of the developed world, and needs to come to an end.”