In the CNN GOP Presidential debate this week Donald Trump expressed his view that birthright citizenship should end and that the children of illegal immigrants should be deported.
Birthright citizenship is a concept embedded in our constitution through the 14th Amendment, which states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” As a result, as long as you are born in the United States, you are automatically an American citizen. The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, with the original intent to ensure that the children of slaves born in the U.S. would be deemed citizens, repudiating the decision from Dred Scott. Trump seems to think that there is some way around this concept. Perhaps Trump or pundits are focusing on the exception “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” thinking that could exclude the children of illegal immigrants from the automatic grant of citizenship- but that is not what that section means. There is actually already a U.S. Supreme Court case, U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, which says that particular exception is for the children of diplomats and similarly situated foreign agents. Relatedly, and on point with Trump’s plan to deport all children born to illegal immigrants in the U.S., there is also already a U.S. Supreme Court case saying that if citizenship is held, that citizenship cannot be revoked by the federal government unless the citizenship was conferred by naturalization rather than birth. As a result, natural born citizen children of illegal immigrants are constitutionally protected from deportation. I think the Donald is fired on this one.