Is Birthright Citizenship a Loophole, or Just a Hot Topic?

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Is Birthright Citizenship a Loophole, or Just a Hot Topic?

Maggee Chang, Staff Writer

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In October, in an interview with Axios, President Donald Trump promised the American people the elimination of the first clause of the fourteenth amendment or commonly known as the birthright citizenship clause, one that grants and defines the conditions of American citizenship. It declares: “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.”

The fourteenth amendment was established in 1868, one of the Reconstruction amendments. It was framed in order to grant citizenship to former African-American slaves and is now commonly used for American families residing/traveling abroad. As many as thirty nations, mostly in the Western Hemisphere such as Canada, provide Jus soli, or “the right to soil”– citizenship by birth.

In 1898– a time when the racially-charged Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882 were in place–, A Chinese-American, Wong Kim Ark, went to the Supreme Court after not being granted entry into the United States, his birthplace, after visiting his family in China. Wong was born in the United States by Chinese nationals in San Francisco, California. After being barred from re-entry according to the Chinese Exclusion Acts that prevented entry for Chinese workers, he argued that those laws did not apply to him due to the fourteenth amendment– he was an American citizen by birth. This Supreme Court Case, United States v.s. Wong Kim Ark, confirmed the legal standing of birthright citizenship in the United States.

However, this amendment is now being threatened by the President, making claims that the amendment allows illegal immigrant families an easy way into citizenship. Coined ‘birth tourism’– the act involves the practice of a foreigner, regardless of nationality, giving birth to a child on American soil, automatically granting the child American citizenship. These children, coined “anchor babies” by conservatives, allow non-citizen parents to stay in the United States. President 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 of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.” As stated earlier, the president’s claims of being “the only country in the world” is false. The President is not the first to argue for the end of the constitutional right: a number of conservatives believe the government has been misreading the phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” in a way that allows the practice of ‘anchor babies’ and ‘chain migration.’ He also boldly declared of his executive power, which has been contradicted by other leaders of his own political party: “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t. […] You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan denied such claims of power in an interview with radio station WVLK: “You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order […] as a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution. And I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.” President Donald Trump has already fired back for Ryan’s opposition, accusing him of being ignorant and distracted from trying to get majority seats in the midterm elections.

Regardless of the careless words thrown around by the President of a nation that has grown on the backs of immigrants– both legal and illegal–, eliminating birthright citizenship is clearly just another headline magnet to him. Just like the migrant caravan’s narrative, President Trump has created the fourteenth amendment as a loophole for the supposedly dangerous and criminal immigrants to become citizens. This dangerously xenophobic rhetoric does not safeguard national security, but only time after time proves that it directly threatens Americans’ freedoms and culture as a whole.

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