President Donald Trump sent the world of U.S. politics swirling when he said he plans to end birthright citizenship with an executive order in an interview last week. Trump said he plans to remove the right of citizenship to babies born in the U.S. to non-citizens and illegal aliens on U.S. soil.
Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of History Paul Moreno gave some context to the issue. According to Moreno, “it’s beyond a doubt” that the framers and ratifiers of the 14th Amendment “did not intend” to allow the children of any legal non-citizens to be given citizenship.
“I think that’s a wrong reading of the Constitution,” Moreno said. “Congress has never enacted a statute on the question, so that leaves administrative interpretation. That’s how this policy was made and how it can be unmade. If Trump is wrong, Congress can pass a statute countermanding his executive order.”
Professor of Politics and Director of American Studies Kevin Portteus commented on the original interpretation of the 14th Amendment.
“The purpose of the 14th Amendment was to guarantee citizenship and its benefits to black Americans, who might otherwise be stateless persons,” Portteus said in an email. “Its authors openly denied that it instituted birthright citizenship in any form.”
Sophomore Alex Reid, a member of College Democrats, said the executive order would be a sign of hypocrisy and that the the 14th Amendment acts as a safeguard.
“I think that for a party that is very concerned with the overreach of government, it’s hypocritical to be pushing for an executive order to undo a constitutional amendment,” Reid said. “Aside from that, the 14th Amendment, and birthright citizenship in particular, have been safeguards against biases. It helps ensure that no one is denied citizenship because of their race, political views, or other criteria that have denied people entry into the country in the past.”
As to whether or not this would be an issue of government overreach, Portteus said that similar critics took issue with Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but added that this issue could be resolved in another way.
“In seriousness, it is unclear whether it would be overreach,” Portteus wrote. “How do you correct a misinterpretation of the Constitution that isn’t in statute law? Besides, an executive order would almost certainly trigger a lawsuit. Since birthright citizenship came to be our policy as a result of a faulty court decision, another court decision would be a good way to fix it.”
The court decision Portteus referenced was United States v. Wong Kim Ark which ruled in 1898 that the 14th Amendment includes the right of a child born in the country to be considered a U.S. citizen.
Senior Christian Yiu said he disagrees with Trump, both in the method of handling the issue and the fundamental principle behind it.
“The only proper way to address the birthright citizenship is through a constitutional amendment,” Yiu said. “I am a citizen from birth, since my parents are first generation immigrants. I don’t believe America should shut out people who want to pursue the opportunity to live freely.”