Trump’s birthright plan: The legality, politics and history


President Donald Trump says he plans to end “birthright citizenship” in the US by executive order. Can he do that?

In an interview with Axios President Trump claimed that he was working on an end to birthright citizenship, the 150-year-old principle that says anyone born on US soil is an American citizen.

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Mr Trump said. “You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

Mr Trump claimed that such an order is currently in the works, and not long after, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: “I plan to introduce legislation along the same lines as the proposed executive order from President @realDonaldTrump.”

The president’s comments have ignited a furious debate about whether or not the president has the unilateral power to do such a thing, and whether the underlying premise – that birthright citizenship is exploited by undocumented immigrants – has any merit.

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1868

1) What is ‘birthright citizenship’?
The first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment establishes the principle of “birthright citizenship”:

“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.”

Immigration hardliners argue that the policy is a “great magnet for illegal immigration”, and that it encourages undocumented pregnant women to cross the border in order to give birth, an act that has been pejoratively called “birth tourism” or having an “anchor baby”.

“The baby is an essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all those benefits. It’s ridiculous,” Trump told Axios. “It has to end.”

A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 60% of Americans opposed ending birthright citizenship, while 37% were in favour.

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