Birthright Citizenship


Violet Wang, Reporter

Days before midterm elections, President Donald Trump announced that he is preparing an executive order with the goal to nullify the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship in the United States. Citizenship in the United States is a matter of federal law, governed by the United States Constitution. However, Trump addressed his concern casually in an interview.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous, and it has to end,” said Trump.

Although Trump’s claims about the policies in other countries are false and his ability to simply nullify the law are doubtful, birthright citizenship is a controversial issue. In the United States, birthright citizenship is acquired by the circumstances of birth, contrasting with citizenship acquired in other ways such as naturalization. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act automatically grants U.S. citizenship to any person born within the United States. Since the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the citizenship of those born within the U.S. has been controlled by its Citizenship Clause.

“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,” the clause states.

The amendment was enacted in 1868, three years following the end of the Civil War. Its goal was to expand citizenship to African Americans by overturning the 1857 Dred Scott decision, where the Supreme Court had ruled that black people were not citizens under the Constitution. Although the amendment is old, there is little chance it could be changed, according to government teacher Brian Lochtan.

“Any change would require a 28th Amendment and there hasn’t been one since any of the students here’s birth. It’s political, but there’s nothing he can really do it. It would be very hard to change and an executive order wouldn’t be sufficient,” said Lochtan.

However, the application of birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants is still debated, especially among right-wing politicians.

As Trump tries to tighten regulations for immigration and citizenship, the controversy is based on the interpretation of the constitution and because many people would be affected by a change in policy, one that is supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that approximately 7.5 percent of all births in the U.S. are to unauthorized immigrants and that there are 4.5 million children who were born to unauthorized immigrants that received citizenship through birth in the United States.

Senior Tristin Antonelli was given birthright citizenship even though his mom is from Mexico and stated his thoughts on the issue.

“I don’t think it’s right that he wants to take it away. It’s a right that we should be born with and for him to take it away is against the Constitution and what America stands for,” said Antonelli.

Trump has not taken any further actions as of yet, but his thoughts for the future of birthright citizenship rights could affect many.