A clip from President Donald Trump’s interview with Axios is setting off alarm bells. In it, the President says he’s planning to sign an executive order that would remove citizenship rights from children born to undocumented citizens on American soil. Historically, that is a right that has been guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” he said. “You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.” [h/t Buzzfeed News]
Legal experts are skeptical. If Trump does sign such an executive order, it would almost certainly get caught up in legal hell.
The part of the Constitution in question is the 14th Amendment. It 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. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled on this issue and determined that if you were born in this country, the United States can’t deny you citizenship. This decision, like any other, can be revisited, but the chances of the current Court coming to a different conclusion are unlikely.
Later in the clip, Trump claims that the U.S. is alone in offering citizenship to children born here, regardless of their parents’ immigration status, saying “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.”
This is incorrect. In fact, more 30 countries, Canada and Mexico among them, offer what’s known as birthright citizenship.