October 30, 2018

The Chaos of Trump’s Would-be Birthright Citizenship Order

In an interview with Axios released on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 30, President Trump indicated plans to sign an executive order revoking birthright citizenship—returning to a proposal he floated early in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Within hours, Vice President Mike Pence told Politico that the president is looking into legal avenues to “reconsider birthright citizenship,” arguing that “the Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled that the language of the Fourteenth Amendment … applies specifically to people who are in the country illegally.” And in July 2018, a former Trump administration national security official penned an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that “the notion that simply being born within the geographical limits of the United States automatically confers U.S. citizenship is an absurdity.”

Many observers are dismissing the idea as half-baked—pure politics meant to stir up the president’s base just days before the midterm elections. We hope they are right. But if we have learned anything from the past 21 months of the Trump presidency, it’s that the legal and practical implausibility of an idea is no guarantee that this administration won’t attempt it.

A focus on immigration and citizenship has long been a staple of the president’s policies and rhetoric. He ran on the fear of violence that might be perpetrated by undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America. He has capped refugee admissions at record lows for 2018 and 2019 and expressed a desire to end what he refers to as “chain migration,” known otherwise as family-based immigration as established under the Immigration and Nationality Act. He directed the implementation of the one hundred percent prosecution of illegal entry at the U.S.-Mexico border, which—due to lack of policy planning—was carried out by forcibly separating children from their parents or guardians. More recently, he minimized the significance of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey by repeatedly stating that Khashoggi was “not a citizen.” (Khashoggi was, significantly, a legal resident of the United States, which status afforded him many legal rights under U.S. law that are afforded to citizens.) And now the president and vice president have said the administration is considering legal avenues for limiting birthright citizenship.

Read the full article in Lawfare.