In an interview with Axios, President Donald Trump has announced that he’ll attempt to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants by way of an executive order.
I say attempt, because any order his administration issues is sure to be immediately challenged in the courts, and his ability to change this policy unilaterally is very much in doubt.
Here’s what the 14th amendment says on the matter: “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.”
Many read that to mean that anyone born in the United States is a citizen, even if their parents aren’t citizens.
Some dispute that reading, however, saying the clause “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” can’t be ignored and was intended to mean the child’s parents should also be citizens if citizenship status is to be bestowed.
The problem with this interpretation is that it’s relatively new, and runs contrary to the way the 14th amendment has been enforced since ratified in the 19th century.
It seems to me that if we want to change birthright citizenship, we have to amend the constitution.
But while the question of whether President Trump can stop birthright citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants with an executive order is important – it depends on which reading of the 14th amendment you subscribe to – more timely perhaps is the question of whether or not he should.
President Trump should approach this issue as he did with the debate over the DACA rule, and put the onus on Congress. When he decided the Obama administration’s executive order about a path to citizenship for children brought into our country illegally was illegal, Trump asked Congress with acting.
The results have been underwhelming, but from the perspective of sound governance it was the right move.
For too long our country’s immigration policies have been an abject disaster, mostly because enforcement of them has been hit-and-miss from one administration to the next. Congress has all but abandoned their duty to make law in this area, punting the ball to the executive branch where the application of the law varies with whoever happens to be occupying the White House in the moment.
That needs to stop. What we need for the immigration issue is law that is actually legislated, not another executive order that would probably survive only until we elect the next Democrat to the White House.