President Trump says he plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for the children of unauthorized immigrants and non-U.S. citizens — even though they are born on U.S. soil.
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits,” Trump said in an interview for Axios on HBO. This is blatantly false; according to PolitiFact, at least 30 other countries, including Canada, grant citizenship rights on the principle of “jus soli,” or “right of the soil” — known as birthright citizenship in the U.S.
Many have questioned the legality of Trump’s proposed plan; the president’s authority to strip the citizenship rights of thousands of children with an executive order is tenuous at best, according to former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services chief counsel Lynden Melmed. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, U.S. citizenship is automatically granted to any person born within and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The Supreme Court has already declared, in 1898’s United States v. Wong Kim Ark ruling, that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution supports birthright citizenship. But conservatives have argued that the law doesn’t apply to those with undocumented parents.
On top of the fact that this is a flagrant violation of the Constitution, immigrant-rights advocates point out that Trump is pandering to his white nationalist, anti-immigrant fanbase — just days before the midterm elections. “Trump is throwing a bunch of nationalist immigration policies at a wall and seeing what will stick,” the National Immigration Law Center wrote in a statement. “We should see this for what it is, a cheap attempt to score political points before next week.”
Trump said he has run the idea of ending citizenship rights for children by his counsel and plans to proceed, despite inevitably facing legal pushback. The executive order could bring Trump to the Supreme Court over his authority to unilaterally dismantle laws with such widespread consequences.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment,” Trump said in the interview. “Guess what? You don’t … Now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
Trump refused to provide further details about the plan, but insisted “it’s in the process. It’ll happen.”