Birthright citizen is something that every American has been taught from an early age. If you are born on American soil you are granted full citizenship status. In our world of complex bureaucracy, it is a surprisingly simple concept. President Donald Trump has recently announced that he wants to bring this policy to an end.
In an interview with Axios, Trump said, “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all those benefits.”
This is not true—by a long shot. There are over 30 countries with very similar processes of birthright citizenship.
Before the debate can even begin about this announcement, some things need to be cleared up. The actual legality behind Trump’s claim has been called into question since he made the statement and given the president’s track record on past claims, it’s understandable.
According to the New York Times, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan even attacked the President’s announcement and said the president “obviously” did not have the power to undo a constitutional amendment through executive order.
Despite the backlash, the president has stuck to his guns. On Oct. 31, the day following the initial announcement, Trump tweeted “So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or another.”
Regardless of whether this is possible, people should be alarmed. The president has floated ideas of altering people’s citizenship status. The Los Angeles Times reported that rare processes have been on the rise under Trump. That same article states that denaturalization was typically reserved for “Nazi war criminals and human rights violators.”
Stripping or preventing citizenship status is—to use a cliché—a slippery slope. Citizenship should not be something that people have in question. There are unalienable rights granted to citizens.
One horrific scenario that arises from Trump’s proposition is the classic fear that someone—who has spent their entire life in the United States—goes to get a driver license or some form of government identification and finds they are not actually an American citizen. This is the reality children of undocumented immigrants would face.
On a different note, the use of an executive order—with so much of the government being controlled by Republicans—marks a seriously alarming move. A conservative criticism of President Barack Obama was his use of executive orders, especially towards the end of his second term.
Aside from disagreeing with the actual orders, conservative ideology absolutely opposes a single, federal official having so much power. Support of this action by the president could mark a serious shift in conservative American rhetoric.
Trump probably won’t be able to act on his claim—he might not even want to. This whole commotion might just be for rallying midterm voters. Still, allowing denaturalization and citizenship prevention rhetoric to be tossed around can lead to sinister policy shifts.