Trump wants to end birthright citizenship by executive order but it's unclear if he can

“It's ridiculous. And it has to end.”
President Donald Trump said Monday he plans to scrap birthright citizenship through executive order, part of a raft of hardline immigration measures announced ahead of next week’s midterms.
Getty Images

Donald Trump said Monday he wants to scrap birthright citizenship through an executive order, part of a raft of hard-line immigration measures announced ahead of the midterms.

The president told Axios that he can use his executive power to end the right for the U.S.-born babies of non-citizens and illegal immigrants to gain American citizenship — even though such a move would likely violate the Constitution.


“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 … with all of those benefits,” Trump said. “It's ridiculous. And it has to end.”

Around 30 countries offer birthright citizenship, including Canada.

When challenged on whether he could simply rewrite the law through an executive order, Trump insisted his counsel believed he could.

“You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order,” he said.

The right to citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, which 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.”

As Trump acknowledged in the interview, it is widely believed that to reverse the status quo would require a constitutional amendment — although he maintained this was not the case.

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't,” he said.

Regardless, any effort by Trump to remove the right via executive order would almost certainly face immediate challenges in the courts.

Trump’s birthright plan surfaced on the same day the White House announced it was sending thousands of additional troops to secure the southern border. The president also appeared on Fox News to warn that members of a slow-moving migrant caravan heading for the U.S. border would be held in “tent cities.”


“We’re not letting them into this country. If they apply for asylum, we’re going to hold them until such time as their trial takes place,” Trump said.

“They’re going to wait, and, if they don’t get asylum, they’re going to get out.”

Officials earlier announced that 5,200 troops would be dispatched to the border to stop the migrants, many of whom are fleeing violence in Honduras and El Salvador.

Those numbers are a huge step up from the initial response planned, which involved 800 troops. About 2,000 National Guard members are already deployed at the border.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the action would be the largest swift deployment of troops since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and would be larger than the current U.S. deployment to Iraq and Syria.

READ: The Trump administration just found 14 migrant kids they forgot they separated from their parents

Critics, including the left-leaning advocacy group VoteVets, decried the move as a political stunt that would diminish U.S. readiness for legitimate military deployments.

“President Trump is manufacturing a crisis around the caravan for political gain — to stoke fears and garner votes for the midterms,” read a joint statement from Rabbi David Saperstein, a former ambassador at large for international religious freedom, and members of the Center for American Progress.

“Instead of talking about the real threats and actual murders of innocent Americans, President Trump is doing his best to turn the nation's attention elsewhere for political purposes.”

Cover image: US President Donald Trump addresses a 'Make America Great Again' rally at at Bojangles Coliseum on October 26, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP).