Birthright Citizenship: Trump vs The Constitution

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Over the last week Donald Trump has expressed his support to remove birthright citizenship from US legislation, meaning that people born in the US are no longer guaranteed immediate citizenship. This is another one of Trump’s attacks on illegal immigration, but this one is a little more radical; it directly violates the 14th amendment.


The 14th amendment states that “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.” Trump argues that this policy is a magnet for illegal immigrants; it provides a loophole for one to stay in the country by giving their child citizenship.


Some people like Trump like to argue that birthright citizenship has no right to exist in the 21st century. The amendment was introduced to the US constitution in 1868 in order to deal with the backlash of abolishing slavery. Since slaves were not technically citizens before their emancipation, when the 13th amendment came into being there was a whole population of people that were just released into the country. The establishment of birthright citizenship was simply to help the former assimilate into American life as proper citizens.


Birthright citizenship is used nowadays to protect the rights of children of immigrants who have established lives in the United States. This was established by Wong Kim who was born to two immigrants who didn’t have citizenship; when he came back to the country after a visit to his homeland of China he nearly wasn’t allowed back into the country. Wong was technically not a citizen, but he argued that the 14th amendment should allow him citizenship since he was born in the US. Since then, the 14th amendment has been used to protect the rights of all sorts of immigrants.


Trump is nearly famous for his sentiments about immigration; it was just this week that he announced his plan to send 15,000 troops to the US-Mexico borders to defend against the “hordes.”  Now the question is how much of these sentiments can come across with an executive order that Trump vowed to sign. Barack Obama once used an executive order to change the US immigration policy and that sparked controversy by itself. If Trump were to use an executive order to end, or even just alter, birthright citizenship, it would weaken the power of the US constitution and would strengthen the argument that the document can’t be taken so strictly in the modern age.


If birthright citizenship were to be changed, it would most likely be only on the side dealing with illegal immigrants. It would mean the end of “anchor babies” by not granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Whether or not this is justifiable is still under hot debate, but a Pew Research Centre poll back in 2015 revealed that over 60% of Americans were against ending birthright citizenship.