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Thomas Gallatin / Oct. 30, 2018

Trump Mulls Ending Birthright Citizenship Via EO

The president wants to shut down one of the biggest magnets for illegal immigration.

“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 State for 85 years with all of those benefits,” President Donald Trump declared in an interview with Axios. “It’s ridiculous,” he added, “and it has to end.” Trump then announced his plan to issue an executive order to cease allowing “anchor babies,” the current practice of recognizing automatic birthright citizenship of children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens. With recent reports finding that illegal-alien births are now costing U.S. taxpayers a whopping $2.4 billion annually, and with three caravans of illegals headed to the American border, is it any wonder that Trump is seriously seeking to address this growing problem?

Anticipating objections to the legality of the executive order, Trump pushed back, saying he was “always told … that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t.”

Axios was quick to challenge Trump’s assertion that the U.S. is the only country allowing birthright citizenship by noting that at least 30 countries still do so, but Axios glaringly omits an important qualifier (admittedly a qualifier that Trump himself should have noted): No other developed nation continues to accept birthright citizenship. Canada ended the practice in 2009, leaving the U.S. as the last holdout.

Whenever any objections to birthright citizenship are raised, proponents quickly point to the 14th Amendment, arguing that it is a constitutionally protected right. But as Mark Alexander has previously explained, “In the very words of the 14th Amendment’s authors … ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ clearly and plainly referred to those who were legal citizens. It did not and never has implied any legal standing for the children of illegal immigrants. … The 14th Amendment makes no birthright allowance. Our Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 gives Congress the power to determine qualifications for citizenship, and Section 5 of the 14th Amendment does likewise. Start by amending Section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are not eligible for citizenship by virtue of birth.”

Nevertheless, the ACLU stated, “This is a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms. The 14th Amendment’s citizenship guarantee is clear. You can’t erase the Constitution with an executive order, [President Trump.]”

Sen. Lindsey Graham knows better: “Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship. I’ve always supported comprehensive immigration reform — and at the same time — the elimination of birthright citizenship.”

So does Trump have the executive authority to make this change? Axios is correct in noting that there will certainly be legal challenges should Trump issue the EO. But that may be exactly Trump’s intention — to force the courts to weigh in and provide greater legal clarity on an issue that has long troubled many Americans. Trump’s case is a strong one.

(Updated.)

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