Can Trump really abolish the right to citizenship for children of non-residents?
During an interview with Axios on Monday, the president of the United States asserted that he has the power to eliminate citizenship for babies of non-citizen parents born in the United States. Is this true?
In the home stretch of one of the most important elections in the country, President Donald Trump has again used his anti-immigrant rhetoric to boost the Republican vote.
In recent weeks, the rejection of its chaotic government agenda, as well as the campaign for the Latino vote, have put the Republican majority in the Congress on the ropes, as they run the risk of losing legislative control in the country after the midterm elections.
Among threats against the Caravan of Immigrants that travels through Central America to the border and constant attacks against the media, the president has run out of ammunition for his campaign.
Now, he has assured that he will fulfill his promise to eliminate "anchor babies", signing an executive order that will rescind the constitutional right of children of non-citizens born on U.S. soil to have U.S. citizenship.
In an interview with Axios on Monday, Trump said he had discussed the idea with his advisors and that the measure "[is] in the process. It will happen, with an executive order."
"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment," the president said. "Guess what? You don’t.”
The president has again demonstrated his lack of knowledge in the field of international law, as he would be suggesting the removal of the legal status known as julis soli (right of the soil) that comes from Roman law and that influenced the civil law systems in much of West.
After the independence of the English colonies and the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, the structuring of new societies was based on large migratory waves, which allowed the julis soli to be established as a constitutional amendment.
While the migratory crises of the 21st century have placed the focus on the principle - especially in European countries that have seen their capacities saturated when it comes to receiving immigrants - julis soli is not absolute and can be dependent on some conditions.
The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: "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." This "jurisdiction" contemplates two exceptions: in the case of children born in the country but children of foreign diplomats, or "children born of enemy forces participating in the hostile occupation of the territory of the country.”
This last exception has been the subject of extensive debate in recent years, especially in the United States.
Sociologist John Skrentny of the University of California told NPR in 2010 that while the rest of the world grants citizenship to immigrants for what is known as julis sanguinis ("by right of blood"), the United States is one of the few in granting citizenship of birth without major exceptions.
"The idea is that the nation, the people, are bonded together through ancestry," explained Skrentny. "The other notion of nationhood is generally understood as a civic notion of nationhood. And this is the idea that folks are bonded together by where they are, by locality and by the ideas they might share. And that's what we have in the United States. There are folks who say that you know, to be American is to embrace an idea.”
In conclusion, the president has two options at hand to fulfill his promise: he could well use the interpretative loophole of the 14th Amendment as a way to eliminate the right to citizenship of children born to undocumented parents in the country - based on his rhetoric characterizing immigrants as "gang members," "rapists," "traffickers," that they come to the country in caravans that he has labeled as "invasion" - or he could subject the process to a modification of the amendment, which would need the approval of Congress.