It shouldn’t have to be said, but here we are: No, President Donald Trump cannot end birthright citizenship by executive order.
Trump made the dubious claim in an interview with Axios, in which he said that he didn’t need to go through the normal process of changing a constitutional amendment and instead could simply do it with the swipe of a pen.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment,” Trump said of revoking birthright citizenship. “Guess what? You don’t.”
That is unequivocally false. Birthright citizenship is granted by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
The 14th Amendment clearly 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.”
There is no gray area there: If you are born here, you are a citizen. Even conservative justices that Trump himself has appointed say that the 14th Amendment guarantees birthright citizenship.
“The plain meaning of [the 14th Amendment] is clear. A foreign national living in the United States is ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ because he is legally required to obey U.S. law,” Judge James C. Ho, whom Trump appointed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011, when birthright citizenship was also under attack.
In order to revoke birthright citizenship, Trump would either need to get two-thirds of the House and Senate to agree to change the language of the 14th Amendment, or hold a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the state legislatures. That’s an incredibly tall order.
Even some GOP lawmakers are reminding Trump of this fact.
“Birthright citizenship is protected by the Constitution, so no @realDonaldTrump you can’t end it by executive order,” Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who finds himself in a toss-up race for re-election, tweeted Tuesday morning. “What we really need is broad immigration reform that makes our country more secure and reaffirms our wonderful tradition as a nation of immigrants.”
Even Trump’s understanding of how other countries’ birthright citizenship works is wrong, as told to Axios.
“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.”
That is completely and totally false. Roughly 30 countries provide birthright citizenship, known as jus soli – Latin for “right of the soil.”
Trump’s comment to Axios comes a week before the midterm elections, where Republicans are expected to lose seats in the House, as well as crucial gubernatorial mansions across the country. The outcome in the Senate is less clear, as Republicans are running on extremely favorable territory.
And Trump is making his closing argument all about immigration and fear mongering about a migrant caravan hundreds of miles and weeks away from the U.S. border, and is now pushing a false idea that he can just tear up constitutional amendments via executive fiat.
He’s even sending a whopping 5,200 troops to the border to defend against a migrant caravan that is nowhere near the U.S.