President Donald Trump does not have the power to unilaterally end birthright citizenship as he said he plans to do, legal experts say.
In an interview excerpt released Tuesday, Trump falsely claimed he could change the U.S. citizenship qualifications with an executive order.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said in an interview with Axios. “Now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
The 14th amendment to the Constitution, passed in the wake of the civil war, defines citizenship and guarantees that anyone born in the U.S. is a citizen.
“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 amendment reads.
Under this criteria, children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the U.S. are automatically granted citizenship, a policy Trump said is “ridiculous.”
Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, told The Globe Post that Trump’s assertion that he can end birthright citizenship with an executive order has no legal basis.
“Even Trump and his lawyers surely realize that this threat has the weakest possible legal legs to stand on and would risk losing the votes even of the most stalwart judicial conservatives,” Tribe said.
The Constitution is the highest law in the land and no executive order or act of Congress can supersede it.
Two-thirds of the House and Senate must approve a constitutional amendment and send it to the states for a vote. Then, three-fourths of the states must affirm it. The Constitution can also be amended through a constitutional convention, though that has never been done.
In his interview with Axios, Trump also claimed that the U.S. is the only country in the world with birthright citizenship. This claim is also false. More than 30 other countries have the same policy as the U.S.
Tribe argued that Trump’s motive in making the claim that he can end birthright citizenship is to energize his voting base ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
“They must realize as well that this threat, while legally exceedingly weak, nonetheless strikes fear in the hearts of a vast number of legal immigrants and current citizens,” Tribe said.
“So the cynical and inhuman calculus underlying this birthright threat must be that such fear is just fine with them or is in any event a price they’re happy to pay to rev up their base heading into the midterms.”