Trump cannot, in fact, end birthright citizenship with an executive order

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be worried.

click to enlarge I WANT YOU: To please believe everything I say. - Max Pixel/Creative Commons Zero - CC0
Max Pixel/Creative Commons Zero - CC0
I WANT YOU: To please believe everything I say.

In what looks like another petty attempt to rally his xenophobic base ahead of the November 6 midterms, President Trump recently told Axios that he can end birthright citizenship with an executive order.

"You can definitely do it with an act of Congress... but now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order," Trump said.

Like most things that escape Trump's mouth, that claim is largely false. Even one of his new best buds, outgoing U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, thinks Trump is wrong.

"You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. You know as a conservative, I'm a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution." Ryan said Tuesday in a radio station interview. "And I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process."

The 14th Amendment says that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

Most legal eagles take that as an explicit protection of birthright citizenship but a few wackos (AKA your long lost uncle who got a legal degree in '72 and also loves Breitbart) argue that five words in the amendment — "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" — have been misread.

According to NPR, those who think Trump may be on to something believe that the amendment's authors "did not intend to give citizenship to the children of temporary visitors and other noncitizens."

Pretty fresh coming from people who aren't Native Americans, right?

Again, NPR points out that "the majority of legal scholars believe the Supreme Court settled this debate more than a century ago, holding that 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof' refers to anyone present in the U.S., except for the children of diplomats and enemy soldiers (and, at the time, Native Americans). "

And that's where the danger comes in. While this entire post is based on an idea that is completely, and utterly, asinine, the U.S. now has a president whose rhetoric acts like Pavlov's bell for a once-dormant and hidden slice of our population that will salivate over anything that remotely validates their animosity towards people who don't look like they do.

Trump was elected fair and square by the Electoral College, and now he is dictating the shape of the U.S. Supreme Court, which will, forever and always, deliberate on the most pressing issues that continue shape our country (remember how the courts pretty much said the 14th amendment is good to go a century ago?). You've already spent five minutes of your life reading this article, but we hope that you've voted, and we hope that you can motivate a handful of friends to do the same.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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