Donald Trump has insisted he will move to end the right to American citizenship for the children of non-citizens born in the US, a pledge he made frequently throughout the 2016 campaign and one often dismissed as legally unfeasible by scholars.
Birthright citizenship, as it is referred to in the US, is enshrined by the 14th amendment to the US constitution. But Trump has suggested in a TV interview with the breaking news site Axios that he would move unilaterally to sign an executive order that ended the right. Any such order would probably be instantly challenged in the courts.
The comments came as the administration hardens its already extreme line on immigration ahead of the midterm elections next week. Trump dispatched more than 5,000 active-duty military troops to the southern border on Monday as a slow-moving migrant caravan of around 3,500 Central Americans , including mothers and children, trekked towards the US border at least 1,000 miles away.
The order immediately gave rise to pictures of troops in combat gear and armored vehicles heading to join already heavily-armed border patrol agents on the southern border as Trump characterized the caravan as “an invasion of our country”.
In the interview with Axios , Trump falsely claimed: “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.” He added: “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
In fact, dozens of states around the world, including Canada and Brazil, endow the same right, while countries such as the UK and Australia endow a restricted version.
Trump told Axios he had discussed the move with legal counsel and had been told it could be accomplished with a presidential order.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said. He offered no timeframe on the signing of such an order and was not asked to give one.
Republican senator Lindsey Graham said he would introduce legislation to support Trump’s plan. In a statement, said his measure would be “along the same lines” as the executive order but did not give any details or timeline.
“I don’t think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers – and I know some will disagree, but many of them agree with me – and you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship,” Trump told Fox News in 2015.
The 14th amendment to the US constitution reads: “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.”
Migrant advocacy groups responded to the plans with fury.
“This is an attempt to whiteout America’s history and heritage as a nation of immigrants,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of Families Belong Together. “Americans will reject this cynical political ploy to stoke hate before the election. It is a radical hateful agenda at odds with our core American values of love, community and inclusion.”