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Donald Trump

‘It’s ridiculous and it has to end’: Trump threatens to scrap automatic citizenship for children of foreigners born in US

  • In interview for HBO series, president decries non-citizens giving birth to babies who sponge off the state ‘for 85 years with all of those benefits’
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 7:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 11:35pm

The right to US citizenship for children born on American soil to foreign parents could end under US President Donald Trump, who threatened to sign an executive order scrapping the rule in a television interview recorded on Monday.

Ditching the policy, which is said to be protected by the Constitution, would be the boldest move yet by a US president pledging to take a hard line on immigration.

“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,” Trump said in part of an interview with Axios released on Tuesday that is expected to air in full on HBO this weekend. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous and it has to end.”

Trump, trying to energise his supporters before next week’s midterm elections in which Republicans could lose control of Congress, has also stoked anxiety about a caravan of Central American migrants making its way to the US.

His administration announced on Monday it would send about 5,200 troops to the southern border with Mexico by the end of the week to head off the caravan.

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Trump of “driving a false narrative on immigration” in many ways to create fear before the November 6 vote.

Trump, who has long decried “anchor babies”, said he has discussed scrapping the birthright with his legal counsel and believes it can be accomplished with executive action, a view at odds with the opinions of some legal scholars.

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump declared to Axios.

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When told his view is disputed, Trump asserted: “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

“It’s in the process. It’ll happen … with an executive order,” he said, without offering a time frame.

Asked about timing or legal justification for the executive order, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said only that the full interview with the president would air on Sunday, US time.

The move would be certain to spark a constitutional debate about the meaning of the 14th Amendment, which says: “All persons born or naturalised in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

In 1898, the US Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of citizenship to children born to legal permanent residents. But conservatives say the right should not apply to everyone, including immigrants in the country illegally or those with temporary legal status, Axios reported.

[Automatic] US citizenship is an absurdity – historically, constitutionally, philosophically and practically
Michael Anton, former security official

Some have argued the case for birthright citizenship is based on a misreading of the amendment, which was drafted in relation to former slaves following the US Civil War.

Michael Anton, a former national security official in the Trump administration, recently sought to advance that argument in a Washington Post editorial, saying the “notion that simply being born within the geographical limits of the United States automatically confers US citizenship is an absurdity – historically, constitutionally, philosophically and practically”.

Trump’s claim that the US is the only country that extends birthright citizenship is inaccurate. While the president is correct that European countries all require a period of residency before bestowing citizenship on those born to foreign parents, many countries in the Americas such as Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina have US-style birthright citizenship.

The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Associated Press, Reuters