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President Trump recently said he was preparing an executive order that would nullify the long-accepted constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship in the United States.

To accomplish the idea, Mr. Trump would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

What is the 14th Amendment?

The 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War so that recently-freed slaves could become citizens.

The amendment reads, “all person 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.”

What is birthright citizenship?

Birthright citizenship, or jus soli, a legal term that means “right of the soil,” is the right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, and upheld by the Supreme Court, that says anyone born on U.S soil is automatically a citizen.

Therefore, individuals born in the U.S., to parents on temporary visas or here without a valid visa, are also U.S. citizens.

What’s the main contention now?

Some conservatives have long made the argument that the 14th Amendment was meant to apply only to citizens and legal permanent residents, not immigrants who are present in the country without authorization. They say, birthright citizenship was based on a misreading of the amendment, and of an 1898 Supreme Court ruling that they argue pertained only to the children of legal residents.

Background:

  • The U.S. is one of more than 30 other countries that also grant citizenship to children born within their borders.
  • Citizenship policies vary around the world, somewhat based on geography. Countries in Europe or Asia don’t have similar policies, but countries further west, including Canada and most South American nations, do.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security put the number of foreigners without legal status in the U.S. at a little above 12 million in 2014.
  • The President Trump has said that he is planning to sign an executive order ending the birthright citizenship provision i.e., the automatic conferral of U.S. citizenship on any individual born in the country.
  • According to Trump, granting immediate citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, regardless of the legal status of the parents, amounts to encouraging illegal and exploitative immigration.

Implications:

Aside from being unconstitutional, such an executive order would exacerbate racial tensions, exploit fears and drive further polarization across the country at a moment that calls for the promotion of unity and inclusion.

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