President Donald Trump, returning to one of his presidential campaign themes, said in an interview that he plans to use an executive order to end citizenship rights for babies born in the U.S. to parents who aren’t citizens.
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“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 … with all of those benefits,” Trump told Axios in an interview published Monday morning. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
“It’s in the process. It’ll happen … with an executive order,” the president said.
It is unclear if birthright citizenship can be ended through an executive order and without a change to the Constitution.
The Constitution’s 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, says: “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.”
Trump called for ending birthright citizenship in his hard-line immigration platform during the presidential campaign.
Trump was from early in the campaign a vocal opponent of birthright citizenship, and he used the term “anchor babies” to describe those born to undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
“The birthright citizenship, the anchor baby … it’s over, not going to happen,” Trump said in a November 2015 speech in Orlando.
His return to that issue now comes in the run-up to the midterm elections, at a time when the president has hammered hard on the topic of immigration, including referring to a Central American migrant caravan slowly making its way north through Mexico as an invasion.
The U.S. government has interpreted the wording of the 14th Amendment to mean that children born in the country, even to parents who are undocumented, are citizens, according to a FactCheck.org article from 2015.
Most constitutional scholars believe it would require a constitutional amendment to change that, FactCheck.org reported.
Trump maintained in 2015 that Congress could end birthright citizenship with a simple bill clarifying the 14th Amendment. A small group of legal and constitutional experts agreed with him, according to FactCheck.org.
Now, he told Axios he believes birthright citizenship could be ended by executive order.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment,” the president said in the interview. “Guess what? You don’t.”
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News on Tuesday about how a potential executive order might approach the issue. Such an order would almost certainly be challenged in the courts.
Some Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota were quick to paint the president’s comments as a political play to his base.
“He’ll say anything before the election,” Klobuchar tweeted. “Don’t take the bait.”
He’ll say anything before the election. Don’t take the bait. Focus on ending the hate. Hug a kid. Be nice to someone you don’t know or agree with. And vote. Please vote. Trump eyeing exec order to end citizenship for children born in U.S. to noncitizens https://t.co/Vb25oITFfs
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) October 30, 2018