President Donald Trump’s vow to end birthright citizenship in America by executive order has legal scholars and pundits across the political spectrum – the far-right fringe excluded – warning of executive overreach and a legal fight that will almost certainly rule such a move unconstitutional.
Trump calls birthright citizenship a “crazy, lunatic policy” that encourages illegal immigration and has “created an entire industry of birth tourism.” We’re well aware that more than 4 million children born in the U.S. reside with at least one undocumented parent, and nearly 700,000 of those are in Texas alone, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
Clearly, comprehensive immigration reform is needed, as are more secure borders and more immigration courts to process those seeking asylum and to deport those without legitimate claims. But stoking fears of an “invasion” from south of the border and sending 15,000 troops to “reinforce” the U.S.-Mexico border is not a solution.
Earlier this year, the president missed a grand opportunity to trade legal status for young immigrants brought here illegally as children, known as Dreamers, for more border security – including funding for his proposed wall.
Whether Trump is doubling down on his pre-election pledge to end birthright citizenship as a way to rile up his base and get voters to the polls next week, or whether he actually believes it’s what’s best for America is impossible to say. But one thing is clear, ending birthright citizenship for babies with two unauthorized immigrant parents would, according to the Migration Policy Institute, increase the existing unauthorized population in the U.S. from 11 million to 16 million by 2050.
In any event, we’re confident that the birthright provision of the 14th Amendment, which was upheld in 1898 by the Supreme Court, can only be repealed through a constitutional amendment or act of Congress.
Yet it occurs to us that Trump, a businessman with no prior experience in government or public-service record before becoming president, might not fully understand the importance of the 14th Amendment or its place in American history.
In order to form a more perfect union.
Since the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, that phrase from the Preamble has defined the goal of each amendment to our nation’s founding document, beginning with the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments), ratified in 1791, which guarantees such fundamental rights as freedom of speech, religion and assembly.
Chief among these was the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery on Dec. 6, 1865, 7 months after the last battle of the Civil War and 8 months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Two and a half years later, understanding that a “new birth of freedom” – Lincoln’s immortal phrase from Gettysburg – was not possible if the sons and daughters of slaves and émigrés to America were not awarded the full rights of citizenship, the 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868.
Intended to prohibit the creation of a permanent class of resident aliens with no devotion to the U.S. or rights of citizenship, the birthright-citizenship provision of the amendment reads: “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.”
Instead of seeing those who seek to join this new nation conceived in liberty as invaders, our 45th president would do well to reflect on the words of our first president, Gen. George Washington, who in 1783 wrote:
“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”