In an effort to mobilize his anti-immigration base, President Donald Trump sat down with news website Axios to announce an executive order to nullify birthright citizenship — the guarantee of citizenship for all born in this country. Citizenship at birth has been seen as a constitutional guarantee since the validation of the 14th Amendment in 1868, and—unfortunately for Mr. Trump—his plan to dismantle it literally cannot happen.
Talks of limiting birthright citizenship have become increasingly widespread among the political right. This past July, Michael Anton, the former Spokesman of the President’s National Security Council, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post that foreshadowed Trump’s recent statement. Anton argued that the 14th Amendment has been intentionally misinterpreted to give citizenship to children of illegal immigrants, calling it “the most urgent constitutional challenge of our time.” The senator who authored the amendment over 100 years ago stated that its purpose is to grant citizenship to all except “the families of ambassadors.” Anton knew this and changed the quote to paint a different picture.
President Trump has now stepped up as the next to take on birthright citizenship. His suggestion irresponsibly ignores the implications of such a move. Citizen status is less binary than politicians lead us to believe. Simply ending birthright citizenship will affect lawful permanent residents, asylum seekers and international students. Assuming the motive behind Mr. Trump’s plan would be to discourage illegal immigration, it seems strange to target children and rule-followers.
Can we even take this seriously? In his interview with Axios, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that the U.S. is the only nation to guarantee birthright citizenship. In actuality, more than 30 other countries do the same, according to World Atlas. Trump called it “ridiculous” and spent some time trying to explain that he can change the writing and interpretation of the 14th amendment. This too, is false.
The president lies and lacks basic understanding of his executive role. The only two avenues to amending the Constitution are both legislative: one at the federal level and the other at the state level. Mr. Trump’s suggestion that he, as the chief executive, can formally change the 14th amendment or our understanding of it is delusional.
Mr. Trump has been adamantly spouting political gibberish especially over the past several weeks in an effort to energize his base. This past month, he falsely suggested that the Democratic Party is somehow responsible for a migrant caravan traveling in Central America, according to the Times. Last week, he promised a tax cut “of about 10 percent” to “middle-income people” if the Republicans keep congress, but, according to the Times, no one but the president knows the details of this tax cut.
The wave of conversation against birthright citizenship rests on the presumption that immigration, legal or illegal, is bad. Why else would our government attempt to punish those coming here legally? If we want to have an effective conversation about immigration, we must first make reasonable distinctions instead of assuming all immigrants are here illegally, taking your tax money. Michael Anton and Donald Trump are not a part of this effective conversation. Immigration makes America special; without it our country would not be what it is today. Mr. Trump’s sudden crusade against birthright citizenship should not be taken seriously. His statement was made mindlessly in hopes that some would react by voting red on the Nov. 6. I hope that we can take our current president’s statements for what it is: nonsense.
This is the opinion of Jack Palen, a sophomore international relations major. Tweet comments @LALoyolan, or email email@example.com.