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Donald Trump threatens to end birthright citizenship for babies born in US to non-citizens: All you need to know

New York: Donald Trump the flamethrower launched a fresh attack on what he calls America’s “ridiculous” immigration system saying in an interview that he plans to follow through on one of his campaign promises by ending via executive order birthright citizenship to children of non citizens - a Constitutional law that grants US citizenship to anybody born on US soil. If Trump actually moves on this plan, it will mark a dramatic moment in his always-on hardline immigration policy; his call today echoes with the same combative mood and prospects of chaos with which the idea of the Muslim ban was rolled out, early in his presidency.

 Donald Trump threatens to end birthright citizenship for babies born in US to non-citizens: All you need to know

Representative image. AP

As with many of Trump’s grenades, this too throws up more questions than answers at this point. Does he plan to target only illegals or legal immigrants too? Will it have retroactive effect? So far, there are no details on this, only lots of apprehension all around. “Wait. I was born in the United States to two Indian professionals who later became proud citizens of this country. So... now I would be a citizen of India? My contributions to this country would be as a foreigner with no rights?”, asks Mindy Kaling, on Twitter. "As a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear”, said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

In the works for a long time
Although the birthright citizenship headline is being freshly roasted, the thinking (within the White House) that has led to this is anything but new. Trump's firebrand aide on all immigration issues Stephen Miller has for long pointed in this general direction. Multiple background briefings at the White House have suggested that restrictive immigration cuts (without calling it that) are top priority for the Trump administration. From around the time of the 2016 campaign, the central idea that the Trump team has peddled is that immigrants (without clarity on illegal or legal) are milking public resources. The ambiguity helps Republicans distance themselves as needed and the imagery of others prospering works to rile the base. The 2016 Trump vote was an act of aggression, a need to protect white identity at a time of profound demographic shifts that began in the 1960s. The threat to repeal birthright citizenship speaks to the same voter base that got all fired up in 2016. If it doesn't work this time, it's Trump's test case for the 2020 run.

What exactly did Trump say?
"They're saying I can do it just with an executive order. 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. It’s ridiculous”, Trump told Axios, which is drawing quite a bit of flak for planting this kind of “perilous nonsense” into an already overheated and vicious political season.

What does the US Constitution say?
The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution was passed by Congress in 1866 after the Civil War. The amendment was ratified on 9 July, 1868 by three-fourths of the states. Here are the operative portions:
- "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."
- "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

How the story broke
The birthright citizenship story burst into Tuesday morning headlines based on a mini transcript of comments Trump made to “Axios on HBO." With just five weekdays to go before a high stakes election, Trump continues to bet on the same hot buttons that catapulted him into power two years ago. Most legal experts are balking at the idea that an executive order could end a law enshrined in the Constitution. Even guests on Trump’s favourite mouthpiece Fox News said the road isn’t so easy. “This would need a constitutional amendment - the 14th Amendment is quite clear on this”, said John Yoo, former deputy assistant US attorney general.

The messengers
The reporter on the story Jonathan Swan is getting panned for playing like a clever schoolboy. “Exactly,” he says, when Trump says he can change the Constitution with an executive order. “It’s chummy and sordid, but it’s also just... pathetic. He looks like he won a contest to be there”, says one of the searing takedowns of the Axios exclusive with Trump. The Axios website launched only in 2016 - around the same time of Trump's ascendancy. It was founded by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei, Politico's former chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen, and former Politico chief revenue officer, Roy Schwartz.

What’s the trigger?
The big data point being peddled by Trump supporters on this story: that about 275,000 babies were born to undocumented parents in 2014 - that’s about 7 percent of the 4 million births in the U.S. that year, according to Pew estimates based on government data. It was higher in previous years. According to most estimates, Hispanics make up the majority of children born to undocumented immigrant parents.

"If he does it, we will challenge it"
Trump’s latest comments sparked praise, shock and anger as lawyers and common folk brace for what could become a huge constitutional fight. The Trump train is over the moon and is readying to introduce legislation. "Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship. I’ve always supported comprehensive immigration reform — and at the same time — the elimination of birthright citizenship," Graham said in a string of tweets. The resistance is readying for an epic fight. “This is some of the worst lawyering around,” said Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration. Katyal vowed to file a legal challenge against any such plan from Trump. “If he does it, we will challenge it. And win,” Katyal said on Twitter.

We are trying to attack the incentives
I’ll leave it to the scholars to figure out whether this ( repeal of birthright citizenship) can be done but what’s really going on is that we’re trying to attack the incentives that are drawing illegals here”, says Thad Bingel, former chief of Customs and Border Protection in the Bush government.

The Asian American angle
Former White House Cabinet Secretary, Chris Lu is connecting Trump’s latest shocker with the rise of Asians in the US. “Since 2010, more Asian immigrants are coming to U.S. than Hispanics. By threatening to end birthright citizenship, Trump directly targets #AAPIs who were victims of exclusionary laws for much of 20th century. Asian immigrants are also more educated than native-born Americans.”

An immersive Twitter thread (below) with the possibilities comes from Martha Jones, author of 'Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America'.

By Tuesday evening, the US tech lobby has jumped in. "No President has the power to amend the constitution through Executive Order", says a blog post by FWD.us - a forum which counts Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates as founders and funders. "The suggestion that the President has the power to amend the constitution through executive order is a dramatic overreach that should be rejected by all law-abiding citizens. There is bipartisan consensus that only Congress may amend the Constitution and the Supreme Court may alter precedent. If the President attempts to end birthright citizenship through executive order, it will no doubt be tied up in extensive litigation. Ultimately the Fourteenth Amendment is the domain of the Judicial Branch, not covered by Congress’ powers over naturalization or any Executive authority. As Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger testified in 1995, “because the rule of citizenship acquired by birth within the United States is the law of the Constitution, it cannot be changed through legislation, but only by amending the Constitution… The amendment’s purpose was to remove the right of citizenship by birth from transitory political pressure", reads part of a detailed blog.

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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2018 04:40:46 IST

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