On October 30, 2018 during an interview, President Trump told Jonathan Swan and Stef W. Kight of AXIOS, that his administration is in the process of filing an Executive order to repeal the 14th Amendment. He intends to revoke the birthright citizenship to children born to parents whom are non citizens, this includes green card holders. According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, if citizenship were to be denied to every child born to parents who are non US citizen, the undocumented population in the United States would reach 16 million by 2050. If the new amendment denied citizenship to children born to just one non US citizen parent, the undocumented population would then reach 24 million by 2050. Although President Trump favors scaring the American public into believing unverified information, changes to the Constitution cannot be simply done with an Executive order, if this were to proceed it would be detrimental to our country’s socioeconomic status and besides there are far more positive reasons to allow for birthright citizenship than not.
The Dred Scott vs Sanford case would be the first case where birthright citizenship is argued at the Supreme Court. In 1856 Dred Scott sued his previous slave owner’s widow, Eliza Irene Sanford, for unpaid back wages. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled over Dred Scott v Sanford. He ruled that Americans of African descent were not American citizens and could not sue in federal court. Scott argued that he was a free man because he had been living in Wisconsin Territory where slavery was banned at that time. Chief Justice Taney ruled that Congress lacked power to ban slavery in the U.S. territories, in essence making slavery legal in all states and stripping Scott of his freedom. Finally, the Court declared that the rights of slave owners were constitutionally protected by the Fifth Amendment because slaves were property and could not be removed from the owner’s possession without ‘just compensation’. It would not be until 1868 when the 14th Amendment granted full U.S. citizenship to African-Americans and repealed the Dred Scott decision.
The second case that the Supreme Court would rule over birthright citizenship would not have such a devastating outcome. The case of the United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), more closely resembles the present day concern with President Trump claiming he will be issuing an Executive order to repeal the 14th Amendment. Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco, California, to Chinese parents in 1873. His parents were not United States citizens and only worked in the U.S. Once an adult he chose to remain in the U.S. while his parents returned to their home country. In 1890 he took a second trip to China to visit his parents. Upon his return he was denied reentry into the United States by the customs agent who claimed he was not truly an American citizen. Wong Kim Ark acquired legal representation and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. “The Supreme Court held in a 6-2 decision that a child born in the United States to parents of foreign descent is a citizen of the United States unless the parents are: 1) foreign diplomats, or 2) the child was born to parents who are nationals of an enemy nation that is engaged in a hostile occupation of the country’s territory.” This ruling has taken precedence to all other cases that have come to question birthright citizenship since.
Contrary to President Trump’s claims of simply issuing an Executive order to repeal the 14th Amendment, this simply is not possible. What President Trump wants to do is completely unconstitutional and un-American. Since the first 10 amendments created in 1787, there have only been 17 other amendments made to the constitution. In the last 232 years, the Constitution has only been amended 17 times. President Trump is up for a very hard battle if he intends to take on Congress to abolish birthright citizenship. The Constitution of the United States allows for two methods for making amendments. The United States Congress can pass a bill setting out a proposed amendment by a vote of two thirds in each, House of Representatives and in the Senate. Or a constitutional convention can be convened by a vote of two thirds of the state legislatures, which will propose one or more amendments. In either case, the amendments to the U.S. Constitution only become effective after being ratified by 3/4 of the states. In the Miami Herald, Kunal Parker a University of Miami law professor, is quoted saying “The key point here is that nothing is going to be legal until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on what the meaning of the birthright citizenship rule is. Neither Congress nor the president will be able to change that without the Supreme Court.”
The revocation of birthright citizenship will create a whole new type of residency status that will blow up in our faces. Many unwanted problems will come of it. For Example: In the 1960s Germany was experiencing labor shortages and invited hundreds of thousands of foreigners into the country as part of a guest worker program. There were approximately 750,000 from Turkey, almost half of which never left. Present day Germany now has 2.5 million people of Turkish heritage living in their country. Germany has since in the last 19 years allowed for children born of one parent who has stayed in the country legally for eight years, citizenship. It has also lifted the ban on dual citizenship as long as they have resided in Germany for eight years. In Japan it was much harsher and has lasted nearly a century. In 1910 around 2 million Koreans moved to Japan hoping for a better future. If they chose to become citizens they were forced to change their names to Japanese names. They were subject to discrimination, unable to find employment. It wasn’t until 1980s and the 1990s that Japan gave Koreans permanent resident status, opened up job opportunities and started to allowed Koreans to keep their names after become citizens. These practices create too much division and deepen discrimination. How would newborns be verified as true citizens? The decision can breed a new kind of corruption as well. Bribes already take place at the border, now they would take place at hospitals. Another result would be the development of a caste system in America. From the moment you are born you are an undocumented resident of the United States with no opportunity to ever rise above. The land of opportunity would no longer exist.
Contrary to the fear evoked by the President there are many reasons that benefit the United States in keeping birthright citizenship active. I will be discussing some of the more not so well-known pros to maintaining a healthy relationship with immigrants. Unidos.org states that the average immigrant-owned business hires 11 employees, these businesses can create 3.7 million to 5.2 million jobs in the economy. It also states that undocumented immigrants pay an average of $11.64 billion in state and local taxes a year. They are also paying $13 billion into the Social Security Trust Fund per year, of which they will never see a cent. Stephen Goss of the Social Security Administration states that he expects that by the year 2040 a 3.4 million immigrants will be working and contributing to the retirement trust fund. Proof that birthright citizenship is beneficial to the American economy is the success of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA. In AmericanProgress.org, it says that DACA recipients have been able to uplevel their skills and training. This creates better paying jobs, better paying jobs brings in more disposable income to buy cars, homes and open new businesses. If empowering the children of undocumented immigrants has been so financially beneficial to the United States why would we even want to consider eliminating birthright citizenship? Let’s look at the fact that there are 680 billionaires in the United States alone, and we are the leaders by more than 50 percent compared to China which only has 338. We are a magnet for people who want a better life and yet we are selfish about it and don’t want to share. Here is an example of what the American dream looks like. In 2016 Forbes published the Richest People In America, “Precisely 42 slots on The Forbes 400 belong to naturalized citizens who immigrated to America. That’s 10.5% of the list, a huge overperformance considering that naturalized citizens make up only 6% of the U.S. population. (If you add noncitizens, about 13% of American residents are foreign born, but there is also a slew of noncitizen billionaires, such as Chobani Yogurt king Hamdi Ulukaya and WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who by dint of their passports don’t qualify for the 400 but still live, and create jobs, in the U.S.) Ending birthright citizenship would be, literally and constitutionally, turning the American dream into a living nightmare.