Trump Cannot End Birthright Citizenship


More electronic bicycles in major metropolitan areas will both reduce traffic congestion and help the environment. (Courtesy of Flickr)

By William Brodlo

In 1868, the 14th Amendment of the United States’ Constitution declared that all citizens “born or naturalized” in the United States are guaranteed citizenship. To put this in historical context, the amendment was written shortly after the Civil War to allow all emancipated slaves to become citizens, a progressive act forever moving our nation towards the right path of equality.

On Oct. 29, President Trump revealed that he wants to end the 14th Amendment, and that he plans to do so promptly. In an interview with Axios, Trump expressed his issues with the amendment: “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…”

I could not believe that this initiative could be within Trump’s presidential powers. Given the results of the midterm elections, it is unlikely that Trump could change the Constitution. To do so, he would need to get a two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the most crucial step necessary in making constitutional amendments. As the legality of this proposal is in the air, Trump insists that he can and will pursue it.

In his interview with Axios, our president indicated that he believes he does not need a constitutional amendment to do what he wants, a clear breach of the founding principles our nation stands on. Trump said, “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t.” There is no doubt that President Trump will follow up on this endeavor, despite important legalities blocking him.

As aforementioned, Trump claims that we are the only country in the world that practices birthright citizenship, which is not at all true. Business Insider reports that, “While birthright citizenship is by far a rare policy throughout the world, more than 30 other countries recognize jus soli (Latin term for birthright citizenship), and even more adhere to more restricted forms of birthright citizenship.”

Some may say Trump’s proposal comes as a shock, but in reality, it is very much in alignment with his ideas on immigration. With Trump’s most significant campaign promise of “building the wall,” it is clear our President has a misunderstanding of the way undocumented immigrants enter the country. While a number of these immigrants come into the United States by crossing borders, it is more likely that they have over-extended their visas.

The Center for Migration Studies concludes that “two-thirds of those who arrived in 2014 did not illegally cross a border, but were admitted (after screening) on non-immigrant (temporary) visas, and then overstayed their period of admission or otherwise violated the terms of their visas.” Since 2014, this trend has only been strengthened by more undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S. through visa violations, rather than the decreasing number of undocumented immigrants coming through the border.

Trump’s rhetoric promotes this misconception of our country’s immigration system in order to strengthen the hate-culture surrounding immigrants. It seems as if our president wants to isolate our country from the international sphere, denying refugees and immigrants alike. Trump’s 2016 presidential primary revolved around attacking “anchor-babies,” a gross term used to represent the children of undocumented immigrants.

Last Friday morning, Trump acknowledged the complications of drafting this executive order and stated that “birthright citizenship probably works up to the Supreme Court. It will be signed and we wanted a perfect document,” according to the Washington Examiner. As he is unsure of where birthright citizenship will go, it is up to our judicial system to continue the fight. I am personally wary of the strength behind this executive order and how it could play out in the Supreme Court.

The future of birthright citizenship is unknown, but it is important to be cognizant of the moral complications this will bring. To deny children citizenship challenges the foundations that this country has stood on since the 14th Amendment was drafted, and seems to erase a progressive moment in our nation’s history.

Regardless of political bias or affiliation, I urge you to think critically about Trump’s decision to end birthright citizenship and note what the futures of so-called “anchor-babies” would look like.


William Brodlo, FCRH ’22, is a journalism major from Chicago, Illinois.