Birthright Citizenship and A Century-long Struggle for Immigrants
By admin October 31, 2018

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This week, President Trump said in an interview with Axios that he plans to sign an executive order to end birthright citizenship. He is seeking to stop kids of non-citizens or undocumented immigrants from getting citizenship automatically at birth, which would have a major impact on the immigration laws the country has established through a century-long struggle.

The birthright citizenship is written in the United States Constitution and has plenty of ruling decisions supporting it. Dating back to 1790, the first Naturalization Act restricted citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person” who had been in the U.S. for two years. Under the white-only naturalization law, immigrants of color had no access to citizenship, as demonstrated by Dred Scott, an enslaved African American who unsuccessfully claimed citizenship for him and his family in 1858. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution made a great leap and codified that “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,” which has profound influence on many landmark decisions regarding to citizenship. For example, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), the US Supreme Court ruled that a child born in the Unites State of Chinese citizens, who were at that time permanent residents in the United States, is automatically a US citizen. However, naturalized citizenship was still restricted by the national origin quotas, as established by the Immigration Act of 1924. The quota system was ended in 1965 with the Immigration and Nationality Act, which fostered family reunification and emphasized preference for qualified professionals.

This time, President Trump is targeting kids of non-citizen and undocumented immigrants this time. How big is that population? According to Pew Research Center, about 275,000 babies were born to unauthorized-immigrant parents in 2014, about 7 percent of the 4 million births in the US that year. If we include non-citizens in the United States with temporary legal status, the number is even larger.

People are also concerned about how likely will President Trump’s idea come true, and whether an executive order can override the constitution and revoke the birthright citizenship. Although the President’s lawyer validated that an executive order should suffice, the White House did not comment on the legal grounds of it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said the President cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order, and it should be the Congress’ decision. Some experts warn that this act could exacerbate racial tensions.

As the midterm election is approaching, immigration again becomes one of the top policy issues for GOP voters. Hardline statements on closing the US southern borders to stop immigrant caravan and ending birthright citizenship clearly shows Trump Administration’s frustration on border security and immigration, but it still takes time for us to see whether the rhetoric will turn into real policies.



President Wants to Use Executive Order to End Birthright Citizenship

Trump plans executive order to end birthright citizenship for some U.S.-born babies

The Immigration Act of 1924 (The Johnson-Reed Act)

Number of babies born to unauthorized immigrants in U.S. continues to decline

Birthright citizenship: A Trump-inspired history lesson on the 14th Amendment

US birthright citizenship explained: What is it, how many people benefit

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