Trump’s Decision on Birthright Citizenship Might Reach the Supreme Court

birthright citizenship

Just a week before the critical mid-term elections, the President Donald Trump decided to intensify his stern rhetoric on immigration. In an interview at Axios with reporter Jonathan Swan on Tuesday, he announced to unilaterally end birthright citizenship.

Causing a consternation, Trump vowed to end the right to citizenship for the children of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants, who are born in the United States. He also made a false claim, saying that the US is the only country to grant citizenship to everyone born here. However, the truth is that around 30 other countries follow the policy.

Trump’s call to end birthright citizenship raised questions on the 150-year-old 14th Amendment of the US constitution that says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”

In an effort to stimulate the base of Republican Party, the president decided to double down divisions on immigration by ending the birthright citizenship by executive order. The idea embraces a marginal interpretation of the 14th amendment that is being backed by the people opposing the idea of granting universal citizenship to the children born in US.

He reiterated the idea on twitter, claiming that the birthright citizenship costs the United States “billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens” and that it would be ended “one way or the other.”

He wrote, “So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Many legal scholars agree…..”

Trump’s announcement sparked intense debates, particularly over whether or not he can actually do it. Rebutting the idea, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that changing birthright citizenship would “involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”

The President has claimed that the children of unauthorized immigrants aren’t “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, in light of the words “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” in the Amendment 14 — an interpretation that the critics of the amendment endorse.

Several also assumed that the text in the amendment applies to everyone born in the US, irrespective of where their parents were born. However, the Supreme Court has never ruled on whether that applies to children of unauthorized immigrants.

Trump and the opponents of universal birthright citizenship have a fair point that as a matter of law, the Supreme Court has never explicitly held that children of unauthorized immigrants born in the US are citizens. However, that doesn’t mean that the executive branch has the power to unilaterally clarify what the Supreme Court meant.

Trump’s plan of signing an executive order to redefine birthright citizenship appears to be a way to bring the issue to the attention of the Supreme Court, which he clearly mentioned in a tweet, on Wednesday.

He wrote, “….Harry Reid was right in 1993, before he and the Democrats went insane and started with the Open Borders (which brings massive Crime) “stuff.” Don’t forget the nasty term Anchor Babies. I will keep our Country safe. This case will be settled by the United States Supreme Court!”

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, said, “Perhaps he is banking on the Supreme Court to change its interpretation of the 14th Amendment to permit him to circumvent it via executive order, but that is very unlikely given its clear language.”

As midterms are fast approaching, Trump has been talking a lot about immigration lately, in an attempt to fire up voters. He has also been stoking fears about a migrant caravan from Central America for weeks. Besides, even though the caravan is still hundreds of miles away, the President is now sending 5,000 troops towards the border to keep the migrants out.

Although, there is no information about when will Trump sign the executive letter, or if he actually will. Taking such a big step just days ahead of the midterms is a big risk that the President has taken. Will the strategies of the US President work in his favor in the mid-terms?


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