Ending birthright citizenship

Arnulfo Caballero

President Donald Trump stated his plans to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship, the 14th Amendment right that anyone born in this country is granted citizenship regardless of national affiliation.

The 14th Amendment, which gave freed slaves citizenship after the Civil War, has been a subject of debate regarding its birthright citizenship clause. Legally, the courts have interpreted the clause as referring to all people regardless of previous nationality stating: “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.”

A specific case involving birthright citizenship was U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898, which ruled a Chinese child born in the U.S. from parents with Chinese nationality and who had permanent residence in the U.S. was granted automatic citizenship.

Trump and his contemporaries have been vocal about curbing illegal immigration to the U.S. since he started running his campaign.

On Oct. 30, he signaled his plans to end birthright citizenship through an executive order. The controversy comes from the interpretation of “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

In an interview with Politico, Mike Pence said “We all cherish the language of the 14th Amendment, but the Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled on whether the language of the 14th Amendment – ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ – applies specifically to people who are in the country illegally.”

Trump also stated in an interview with 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 for 85 years with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

There are those, however, who do not believe in the president’s move to end birthright citizenship. “Well, it’s pretty scary to think that he wants to change the constitution with an executive order. That’s not how that’s supposed to work. Or rather, I guess he wants to change the legal interpretation of the constitution,” said Alexander Owen, a junior communication major.

Courtney Hilliard, an adjunct political science professor and practicing attorney here in San Antonio, gave his thoughts on Trump’s executive order. “I believe that President Trump’s plan to eliminate [birthright citizenship] would be highly challengeable on many constitutional grounds. The notion of an executive order granting the president the authority to terminate the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship is not supported by precedent. Amending the Constitution requires supermajorities in the House and Senate. President Trump would find his executive order tied up in court very quickly,” Hilliard said.

However, some people support Trump’s executive order. Junior political science major Peyton Dillberg said, “The move towards ending birthright citizenship was a good first step to a more permanent solution. Many people are unaware that the author of the birthright citizenship clause did not intend for foreigners to become citizens from non-citizen parents,” referring to Senator Jacob Howard as the author of the birthright citizenship clause.