News: The Birthright Citizenship Controversy

by Victor Curiel

In a recent interview with the news website Axios, President Donald Trump boldly proposed his desire to sign an executive order to effectively end the automatic right to citizenship for anyone born in the United States.

This proclamation has been met with mixed reactions, with many Americans feeling either supportive of the President’s hard stance on illegal immigration or shocked at what seems to be a slight against the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

However, the most common response from each political aisle seems to be one of skepticism as many citizens question whether such an endeavor is even legal. President Trump believes it to be so as he told interviewers on Sunday. 

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” he told Axios. “It’s in the process. It’ll happen, with an executive order.” 

Such an executive order would likely face legal challenges immediately. According to the 14th Amendment, “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.” This specific wording has led many many legal analysts to doubt that the President’s theoretical executive order would pass through the Supreme Court.

“Here we have a situation where the text of the Constitution is quite clear and the Supreme Court has interpreted it that way,” said Mr. Garrett Epps, a constitutional law professor at the University of Baltimore, in an interview with news outlet USA Today. “So, for the president to assert that he can somehow overturn the text of the amendment and Supreme Court precedent by executive order is what we would call an extravagant claim.”

However some analysts, like Yale law professor Peter Schuck, believe that, “contrary to traditional assumptions on this issue, Congress has the power under the Constitution” to end birthright citizenship. Although Mr. Schuck concedes that “is a question of interpretation.”

Nevertheless, Schuck ultimately believes that Trump “clearly cannot” end birthright citizenship with just an executive order.

 “I feel confident that no competent lawyer would advise him otherwise. This is just pre-election politics and misrepresentation and should be sharply criticized as such,” said Schuck. 

Like Mr. Schuck, many voters believe this to be an attempted maneuver by President Trump to stimulate his base by vowing to clamp down on immigration issues, due to the November midterm congressional elections being only a day away. Whether or not this will be effective or detrimental remains to be seen. Whatever the case, the President has made it clear that he plans to go through with his words as he fears that people can too easily play the current system to their advantage. 

“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 of those benefits,” President Trump told Axios. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

President Trump’s plan was met with swift resistance, from some even in his own party. On Tuesday, October 30th, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, said in an interview that the president “obviously” cannot dissolve birthright citizenship via an executive order.

“You obviously cannot do that,” Ryan told WVLK, a radio station in Lexington, Kentucky. “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.”

The following day, President Trump fired back against Mr. Ryan, saying that he was wrong about the matter and should focus his efforts elsewhere. 

“Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about! Our new Republican Majority will work on this, Closing the Immigration Loopholes and Securing our Border!” tweeted President Trump on Wednesday, October 31st. 

Trump repeated his claim that he can eliminate birthright citizenship via executive order later Wednesday, although he said his preference would be for Congress to pass legislation ending that constitutional right.

“I’d rather do it through Congress because that’s permanent, but we can certainly do it through…I really believe we can do it through executive order,” he added, noting he had discussed the issue with legal scholars.

President Trump then referenced an immigration executive order signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy he had sought to revoke. Trump suggested that if former President Obama could execute such an order, then he could end birthright citizenship through executive action as well. 

“If President Obama can get DACA approved … we can do this by executive order,” President Trump said.

Whether this is purely bluster or an actual intended action will not be known for a while. Most likely news will be released after the November elections have taken place and the political layout of Congress has been settled. All any American can do at the moment is wait and listen for news on what could potentially be one of the largest alterations of the country and it’s laws to date. 

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