President Donald Trump is planning to attempt to end birthright citizenship by executive order, Trump told news outlet Axios, which reported the move would apply to children of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born in the United States.
It's his latest appeal to anti-immigration supporters in the country and comes on the eve of the midterm elections. But such an order may violate the Constitution.
The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof," as well as to the children of citizens. The Supreme Court ruled in 1898 in the case of a child born to Chinese parents in the U.S. that the amendment "includes the children born, within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States."
But Trump insisted to Axios, in an interview clip released Tuesday morning, that both he and Congress have the power to revoke that right when a reporter mentioned some legal scholars who believe that birthright citizenship is not enshrined in the Constitution.
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"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump said, adding when challenged, that "you can definitely do it with an act of Congress" but that he's been told it's possible through executive order.
"It's in the process, it'll happen. With an executive order," Trump said.
There are legal scholars who have said that the 1898 ruling only applies to children of people living in the U.S. legally, but many say that it, like all U.S. law, applies to anyone in the country who's not a diplomat of another nation.
An executive order ending birthright citizenship would almost certainly face a lawsuit and could affect a large number of people living in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of people were born to undocumented immigrants each year for decades, according to a 2014 Pew study.
In the interview, Trump falsely claimed that the U.S. is the only country to grant citizenship to anyone born there, a right he called "ridiculous." According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. is one of more than 30 countries that offer citizenship by birth, many of them in the Western Hemisphere, including Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
Ending citizenship by birth for some people would be the Trump administration's most dramatic attempt to limit immigration so far.
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The Pentagon is sending troops to the Mexican border in an attempt to discourage Central Americans fleeing violence from legally seeking asylum in the U.S., the order coming just a week before Tuesday's vote. Trump has lately been campaigning against the caravan of migrants traveling by foot through southern Mexico that is still hundreds of miles away from U.S. soil.
The administration is also seeking to make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they've ever used welfare programs like "Obamacare" or food stamps.
In a Fox News interview that aired Monday night, Trump expanded on what he means when he calls himself a "nationalist."
"I want to help people around the world, but we have to take care of our country, or we won't have a country, including — we have to take care of our country at the border," he said.