President Donald Trump promised to end birthright citizenship with an executive order even though it is a right enshrined in the United States Constitution and cannot be undone unilaterally.
Trump told Axios Tuesday that birthright citizenship has to end as he ratchets up his anti-immigrant rhetoric, sparked by the migrant caravan headed to the US-Mexico border, ahead of the midterm elections.
"We're the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits," Trump claimed, even though more than 30 counties including Canada have birthright citizenship.
"It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end," Trump said.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says in its very first clause that: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
Rights groups cry foul: The ACLU issued a statement vowing to see Trump in court.
"The president cannot erase the Constitution with an executive order, and the 14th Amendment's citizenship guarantee is clear," Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, told CNN. "This is a transparent and blatantly unconstitutional attempt to sow division and fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms."
Trump claims full authority: "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump told Axios, adding that he got approval from his White House counsel. "You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order."
Sen. Lindsey Graham backs move, vows legislation: "Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship," Graham tweeted, adding, "In addition, I plan to introduce legislation along the same lines as the proposed executive order from President [Donald Trump]."
Progressives call plan un-American: Garrett Epps, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore, wrote an impassioned defense of the 14th Amendment's Citizenship Clause in The Atlantic in response to Trump's remarks.
"The idea behind the attack on birthright citizenship is often obscured by a wall of dubious originalist rhetoric and legalese," he wrote. "At its base, the claim is that children born in the U.S. are not citizens if they are born to noncitizen parents. The idea contradicts the Fourteenth Amendment’s citizenship clause; it flies in the face of more than a century of practice; and it would at a stroke create a shadow population of American-born people who have no state, no legal protection, and no real rights that the government is bound to respect. It would set the stage for an internal witch hunt worse than almost anything since the anti-immigrant rage of the 1920s."