Birthright Citizenship:
5 Things to Know


President Trump has announced that he is considering an Executive Order to repeal the Fourteenth Amendment protection of birthright citizenship for certain U.S.-born children. Here are 5 reasons why he can’t, and shouldn’t even try.

1) The Constitution guarantees the right of Birthright Citizenship

Birthright citizenship protections are granted by the 14th Amendment ensuring “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.” Following the abolition of slavery 150 years ago, the 14th amendment to the Constitution was adopted as the centerpiece of our nation’s effort to push for equality for those born on U.S. soil. The explicit goal of the 14th amendment is to ensure that citizenship is not unevenly granted or denied based on race. Over the course of decades, such a right to these protections for the children of immigrants living in the U.S. has been reaffirmed by our courts. Despite efforts to portray this as an open question, this is a clear and settled legal question and has been since the 19th century.

2) No President has the power to amend the Constitution through Executive Order

The suggestion that the President has the power to amend the Constitution through executive order is a dramatic overreach that should be rejected by all law-abiding citizens. There is bipartisan consensus that only Congress may amend the Constitution and the Supreme Court may alter precedent. If the President attempts to end birthright citizenship through executive order, it will no doubt be tied up in extensive litigation. Ultimately the Fourteenth Amendment is the domain of the Judicial Branch, not covered by Congress’ powers over naturalization or any Executive authority. As Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger testified in 1995, “because the rule of citizenship acquired by birth within the United States is the law of the Constitution, it cannot be changed through legislation, but only by amending the Constitution… The amendment’s purpose was to remove the right of citizenship by birth from transitory political pressure.”

3) Birthright citizenship is a key factor in assimilation and integration

From the National Academy of Sciences, The Integration of Immigrants into American Society, “Birthright citizenship is one of the most powerful mechanisms of formal political and civic inclusion in the United States; without it, the citizenship status of 37.1 million second-generation Americans living in the country (about 12% of the country’s population), and perhaps many millions more in the third and higher generations, would be up for debate.” Birthright citizenship is a positive feature of American society and one that avoids the pitfalls of other nations through an inclusiveness that prevents communities from remaining outside of official society.

4) This proposal is not out of the blue and has long been the primary goal of the anti-immigrant lobby

Ending birthright citizenship has been a primary goal of anti-immigrant lobby groups that support this Administrationeven if rejected by 65% of Americans. Before the election, Michael Anton – the former national security advisor who famously called on the President to issue the suggested executive order at hand – wrote an anonymous op-ed where he warned of “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty” if Trump were not elected. Groups like the Heritage Foundation, V-Dare, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) – founded by avowed eugenicist and white nationalist John Tanton (author of The Case for Passive Eugenics) – have argued aggressively to repeal the Constitutional provision. Repeal would allow them to fundamentally remake the American immigration system by executive order, blocking millions of American-born children from citizenship and reinstating a kind of discriminatory racial preference we haven’t seen since the racist exclusionary policies of the 1920s.

5) Ending birthright citizenship would only compound problems with our current immigration system believes that legalizing the 11 million undocumented people currently living in United States that have been here for decades would only make our country stronger. Ending birthright citizenship would be moving in the opposite direction – grow the undocumented population – and exclude millions more people from the fabric of American society, harming integration, and exasperating an already broken immigration system.

Key Stats on Birthright Citizenship + 2nd Generation Americans
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