President Trump Announces Intent To Revoke Birthright-Citizenship Laws; Is It Possible?

Daniel Collin Bratcher, Staff Editor

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On October 30, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his intent to revoke the birthright-citizenship laws via the use of an executive order; thus far, the response on either side of the aisle to this announcement has been volatile to say the least.

The 14th Amendment of the Constitution states the following: “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.” Some conservative legal scholars argue that the rights granted by the 14th Amendment could be denied to undocumented immigrants on the basis that their entry into the United States and its subsidy territories is essentially illegal and unsanctioned by the federal government. However, President Trump argues that he can accomplish his goal utilizing his executive powers.

Unfortunately for President Trump, circuit courts in places like Texas and California have ruled in favor of granting the rights of citizenship to the children of immigrants, legal or otherwise, in multiple cases dating back to as early as the late 1800’s during periods such as the California Gold Rush (a period that caused a massive migration from states around California and immigration from Mexico to California), which makes the enforcement of such an executive order challenging. According to Josh Blackman, a conservative constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, nearly all legal experts accept that the amendment is applicable to the vast majority of children born on U.S. or U.S.-controlled soil.

This is not an issue where there’s a lot of disagreement. If President Trump issues an executive order someone will challenge it in five seconds.”

— Josh Blackman

However, some on the right contend that the 14th Amendment phrase “subject to jurisdiction thereof” would allow Congress to put forth a law to rescind or restrict birthright citizenship or, rather, allow the circuit courts to help establish the scope of the amendment’s jurisdiction. One of the less-credible arguments put forth by proponents argue that the “jurisdiction” phrase excludes non-citizens because they cannot legally vote, serve on juries, or be tried for capital punishment for treason.

Even among President Trump’s most verbose supporters in this issue, the idea that a President can eliminate birthright citizenship using an executive order is ridiculous, especially in several discrepancies. For example, would President Trump’s revocation of said 14th Amendment rights take the U.S. citizenship away from those already living and working in the United States? Or would those with a pre-existing condition by subject to punishment or revocation of their rights? Would that not call into question the citizenship of a vast majority of United States citizens other than just undocumented immigrants? These and other questions must be answered before Congress entertains the possibility of stripping United States citizens of their rights on something as legally arbitrary as the nationality of their parents, to punish the children for the sins of their fathers?

Is it possible for President Trump to rework the 14th Amendment laws? Yes, but is it probable? Not likely, at least not in the near future.