WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump called birthright citizenship “frankly ridiculous” on Aug. 21 while talking to media.
“We’re looking at that very seriously—birthright citizenship, where you have a baby on our land. You walk over the border, have a baby, congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen,” Trump said.
“We’re looking at it very, very seriously.”
Birthright citizenship is the practice of granting full citizenship to anyone born in the United States, including those born to parents who are in the country illegally, on a temporary visa, or as tourists. It is blamed for being a magnet for “birth tourism,” and for igniting chain migration through “anchor babies.”
Between 200,000 and 300,000 babies are born to illegal aliens and nonresidents every year, equaling about 7 percent of all births in the United States, according to Pew Research Center estimates using Census Bureau data.
In October 2018, weeks after Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed onto the Supreme Court, Trump said he planned to remove birthright citizenship via an executive order, saying he expects it would end up in the nation’s highest court.
There is controversy about whether birthright citizenship is guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, which states, in part, “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.”
The sticking point is the “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” portion of the 14th Amendment, which was first interpreted by the Supreme Court in the 1873 slaughterhouse cases, relating to citizenship of African Americans, but has never been interpreted regarding illegal aliens.
The majority opinion in 1873 said, “The phrase, ‘subject to its jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude from its operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States born within the United States.”
Trump wrote on Twitter about the 14th Amendment on Oct. 31: “So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ Many legal scholars agree.”
Only 30 of the world’s 195 countries give universal birthright citizenship, with the United States and Canada being the only two developed economies that offer it. Many nations in the past several decades have moved away from giving citizenship to everyone born within their borders, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Ireland.
Once a child born in the United States to illegal immigrants turns 18, he or she can sponsor an overseas spouse and any unmarried children. Once 21, he or she can also sponsor parents and siblings, who, in turn, can sponsor their unmarried children, parents, and siblings down the road.
According to a Center for Immigration Studies report, legislation to end birthright citizenship has been introduced by Democrats and Republicans alike in every Congress since at least 1993, when Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a bill to limit birthright citizenship.
At the time, Reid said on the Senate floor: “If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right?
“Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship. And guarantee of full access to all public and social services this society provides—and that’s a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense at county-run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”