Can The Crazy Orange Man Really Get Rid of Birthright Citizenship, Or is He Full of Baloney?
When I first started this blog, I had this vision that I would get to read lots of Supreme Court decsions and then write about them for you, my gentle readers. But Trump has said and done so many things that involve Constitutional Law that I have wound up just explaining those things.
And here we go again.
So a few days ago, Trump starting saying that he could get rid of birthright citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants by issuing an executive order.
What is birthright citizenship, you ask? Birthright citizenship is the law that says that when a baby is born on U.S. soil, that baby becomes a U.S. citizen. And what's an executive order? An executive order is an order signed by a president that tells members of the executive branch of the government what to do.
So in this case, Trump is threatening to sign an executive order that tells the Immigration department that babies born to illegal immigrants aren't U.S. citizens, even if those babies were born in the U.S.
So can Trump really do this? If he did sign an executive order, would it really have the effect he says it would have? In the immortal words of Queen, "Is this the real life? [Or] is this just fantasy?"
The answer is no. No, he can't. It's a fantasy, Donald!
If Trump signed an executive order stripping birthright citizenship from the children of illegal immigrants, that executive order would immediately be challenged in federal court. Remember that whole checks and balances thing you learned about in fifth grade? Well, this would be one of the times that one branch of government would check another branch. And when that executive order was challenged in federal court, he would lose. There are three things that would make him lose: 1. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution 2. The Immigration and Nationality Act, and 3. A Supreme Court case from 1898 called U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark.
The Fourteenth Amendment, (which, by the way is my favorite constitutional amendment), has a sentence in it that goes like this:
"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."
Most people agree that this sentence means what it says: that if a person is born in the United States, they automatically become a U.S. citizen.
The Immigration and Nationality Act was a federal law passed in 1952, and it repeats that sentence from the Fourteenth Amendment.
There was also U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark. In that case, a dude's parents were both Chinese citizens. The parents had moved to the United States, and were never planning to go back to China, but they had not become citizens by the time their son was born. When the son was a young adult, he took a trip outside the U.S. When he came back, the U.S. wouldn't let him back in, saying that he was not a citizen because neither of his parents were citizens when he was born. So the dude sued, and he won. The Supreme Court agreed with him, and said that the Fourteenth Amendment made him a citizen when he was born, because he was born in the U.S.
So what makes Trump think that he can strip birthright citizenship from the children of non-citizen parents? Three things. First, Trump really doesn't want to be our president. He wants to be our king. He wants to do what he wants, when he wants, and he whines like the spoiled brat that he is whenever he is told that he can't do something because that's not the way our democracy works.
The second reason is that he has some advisors who are on the crazy fringe of the political right. And those bat shit crazy advisors are telling him that he can take away birthright citizenship with an executive order. But the third, and I think most important reason, is that he wanted to throw some red meat to his base, to rile them up to vote in the midterm elections.
So let's unpack reason number two. In 1898, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Wong Kim Ark, the overwhelming majority of the Court said that the dude born to Chinese parents was a citizen because the dude was born in the United States. But a tiny, fringe minority said that he wasn't. That minority said that he wasn't a citizen because of some other words in the Fourteenth Amendment, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof". The minority said that if a baby was born in the United States, but the baby's parents were citizens of some other country, the baby should get the same citizenship that their parents have. Here's where the reasoning gets weird. The reason the baby should get the citizenship of their parents is because their parents are bound to obey the laws of that other country, and maybe feel some loyalty to that other country, so that somehow gets passed down to the baby.
It's like saying that if my parents are Mexican, and I'm born here, then I am a Mexican citizen only. I don't have U.S. citizenship at all. So even if I live in the U.S., and my parents live here, and all my family lives here, and we never plan to move to Mexico, I am still a Mexican citizen. And this is true because, as Mexican citizens, my parents are supposed to obey Mexican laws, even though we don't live there, and if Mexico ever went to war with another country, my parents and I would feel like we would need to join the Mexican army and fight the war with them.
If all of this sounds crazy, that's because it is. This is a weird, crazy, fringe theory that most people don't agree with. But the people around Trump think this is the way to take away birthright citizenship. And Trump listens to these crackpots. So here we are.
But I think that the most important reason Trump is talking about birthright citizenship is because we are so close to the midterm elections. Trump knows that his base is afraid of immigrants, and he wants to look like he's doing something about them. He also wants his base to think that they need to vote to keep Republicans in office, because they are the only ones who will do something about the big, scary immigrants.
So don't be fooled. Trump can't do what he says he can. He's full of baloney, as always. And
for God's sake, don't vote Republican!