In an interview to Axios Media, U.S. President Donald Trump said he plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies born on U.S. soil belonging to non-citizens and illegal immigrants.
This comment just a week before the midterm elections is one of the most hardline stand taken by Trump to what he sees is a major “immigration” and “chain migration” issue facing the U.S.
What is 'birthright citizenship'?
The U.S. along with 33 other countries in the world recognises a baby born on its soil as a citizen. This citizenship is granted irrespective of the legal status of the child’s parents.
This law is almost150 years old and is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. The first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution establishes the principle of "birthright citizenship":
"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."
This law hails back to 1868, when the American Civil War had ended and there came a question of the citizenship of freed, American-born former slaves. The Fourteenth Amendment stated through the process of birth or naturalization, African American slaves brought to the country by their former masters and their children were American citizens.
This was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1898, when the child of Chinese immigrant parents was denied re-entry to the U.S. after he had left it to visit China. In the case of Wong Kim Ark v United States, Wong successfully argued that because he was born in the U.S., his parent's immigration status did not impact the application of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was ruled that Wong was a US citizen and this has been the interpretation levied by the US government as well as its various branches ever since.
Why does Donald Trump want to abolish it?
Donald Trump made reducing immigration an election campaign promise. He is now mouthing the lines by hardline anti-immigration hardliners that the “birthright citizenship”, granted by the U.S. has made it a magnet for illegal immigration.
They argue that this law has encourages undocumented pregnant women to cross the US border in order to give birth, often referred to as "birth tourism" or having an "anchor baby".
An anchor baby is defined as an offspring of an illegal immigrant or other non-citizen, who under current legal interpretation becomes a United States citizen at birth. These children may instantly qualify for welfare and other state and local benefit programs. Additionally with the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the child may sponsor other family members for entry into the United States when he or she reaches the age of twenty-one.
Donald Trump claims that he can end this law with an executive order but that is very much in dispute. Which means that if he does attempt to do it, the issue would head to the US Supreme Court which would mean the current bench of judges would either uphold the current interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment or could rule anew.