President Trump wants you to be terrified. Particularly of people of color, or anyone who might dare try to immigrate to the United States from anywhere outside of Scandinavia. It’s why with a week until the midterms he is sending thousands of troops to the border to thwart a rapidly dwindling migrant caravan that isn’t even going to make its way through Mexico for months. It’s a transparent ploy, but it’s all Trump has left. Stoking fear over immigration is the bedrock of his presidency. It got him elected, and now he’s hoping it will allow Republicans to retain control of Congress.
It doesn’t end with an imaginary “invasion,” either. On Tuesday morning, Axios reported that Trump is planning on signing an executive order that he thinks would revoke birthright citizenship, which is protected by the 14th Amendment and holds that anyone born on U.S. soil is a U.S. citizen. Axios broke the news through a clip from its new show, Axios on HBO. Host Jonathan Swan was positively giddy as the president sloppily detailed his plan to undercut one of America’s core principles.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment,” Trump said of revoking birthright citizenship. “Guess what? You don’t.”
You do, though, and if Trump were to bypass Congress and attempt to override a constitutional amendment with an executive order it would set off a firestorm of litigation. Trump doesn’t seem to mind, though; “they” told him he could do it. “Now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order,” he continued. “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes, has a baby and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It has to end.”
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The bit about being the only country to allow birthright citizenship is a lie. Several countries practice unconditional “jus soli,” or “right of the soil,” including almost the entire Western Hemisphere. Several more, like Australia and the United Kingdom, practice it on a restricted basis. It doesn’t matter, though. Trump thinks it’s ridiculous, and he confirmed to Axios that he has had real discussions about abolishing the practice and that his administration is in the process of putting together an executive order. “It will happen,” he said.
One can debate the merits of unconditional Jus Soli, but US practice is in line with the rest of the hemisphere.
The UK is also very close to unconditional Jus Soli, and France and Germany have moved closer to US practice in recent years.
Trump is making stuff up. pic.twitter.com/2K8HgmBsHO
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 30, 2018
Unlike the Second Amendment, there isn’t much ambiguity in the text of the amendment that guarantees citizenship for those born in the United States. “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,” it reads. Some have tried to argue that the amendment was written to protect only the children of those legally residing the United States, but most legal scholars agree that the amendment is pretty damn ironclad in stating that anyone born in the United States is a citizen of the United States.
As historian Angus Johnston laid out on Twitter, the 14th Amendment is “the most crucial, explicit protection we have for our civil rights and liberties.” Though slavery was abolished through the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, African-Americans were still not considered citizens due to a pre-war Supreme Court decision on a case brought by Dred Scott. Scott was born into slavery, but brought by his owner to the north, where slavery was illegal. He wanted his freedom, but the court denied him of it because it would have stripped his owner of his personal property. The court ruled additionally that African-Americans could not be citizens of the United States, depriving them of the ability to file any future lawsuits. The 14th Amendment overturned this decision.
So. The Fourteenth Amendment granted EVERYONE birthright citizenship precisely because the people who wrote it knew that if they left any loopholes those loopholes would be exploited by those who wanted to deny former slaves and their descendants equal rights.
— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) October 30, 2018
Trump is now one of those people looking for a way to exploit a loophole the authors of the 14th Amendment made sure not to include in its text. “I’m not usually a fan of calling things you don’t like “unamerican,” Johnston’s thread concluded. “But attacking the Fourteenth Amendment? That’s unamerican. It’s an explicit repudiation of what’s best in us as a nation.”
Speaking of un-American, Chief Trump Sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) quickly expressed his support for Trump’s move to abolish the practice, which is as good of an indication as any that it’s nothing more than a pre-election scare tactic. On Monday, Graham similarly fell in line with Trump’s plan to stoke fear over the migrant caravan. “I am offended by this caravan trying to overrun our country,” Graham said on Fox News. “To our friends in Mexico: If you don’t help Trump stop this caravan, you’re going to pay a price in Congress when it comes to this trade deal.”
Graham added that he plans to introduce legislation eliminating birthright citizenship should Trump’s executive order not be able to hold water in court.
In addition, I plan to introduce legislation along the same lines as the proposed executive order from President @realDonaldTrump.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 30, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence soon joined the procession, which is sure to grow longer once Fox News can coordinate its programming and more lawmakers can prepare their statements. “We all cherish the language of the 14th Amendment, but the Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled on whether or not the language of the 14th Amendment is subject to the jurisdiction thereof applies specifically to people who are in the country illegally,” Pence told Politico Tuesday morning.
So much for the Constitution. Donald Trump is president.