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Any move on citizenship is sure to be challenged in US courts

Many legal and constitutional experts have said such a move would go against the Constitution and amount to the president overstepping his powers

editorials Updated: Nov 02, 2018 12:56 IST
Hindustan Times
Trump’s plans have triggered a pushback from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, with even Speaker Paul Ryan saying birthright citizenship can’t be ended through an executive order(AFP)

United States President, Donald Trump, has pledged to end birthright citizenship, the latest salvo in his ever-expanding drive to crack down on illegal immigration. Mr Trump has clearly made the remarks with an eye on galvanising his core support base ahead of the midterm elections next week, as this is just the sort of thing that will appeal to the “Make America Great Again” crowd. Among those who have benefited from the right of citizenship for children born on US soil to non-citizens and unauthorised immigrants are thousands of children of Indian holders of US work and visit visas. Mr Trump has argued there is no need for a constitutional amendment to do away with this right, and that the matter can be settled through an executive order. Mr Trump has also argued, wrongly, that the US is the only country where babies born on its soil are given citizenship. The CIA’s World Factbook states about three dozen countries around the world, including Canada, Brazil and Pakistan, grant “right of the soil” to anyone born within their territory.

The debate over birthright citizenship is not new in the US, a country built by immigrants from around the globe. As far back as 1898, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of such citizenship under the 14th amendment to the Constitution in the historic case of Wong Kim Ark, a man born in San Francisco to Chinese parents. However, some have argued there is a need to have a review of this matter in view of the rise in the number of illegal immigrants in the US in recent decades. They have also argued the 14th amendment — which states “All persons born or naturalised in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States” — shouldn’t apply to US-born children of illegal immigrants. According to a Pew survey, the number of children born to unauthorised immigrants in the US rose dramatically from 30,000 in 1980 to 370,000 in 2006, though it has been declining since then.

Mr Trump’s plans have triggered a pushback from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, with even Speaker Paul Ryan saying birthright citizenship can’t be ended through an executive order. Many legal and constitutional experts, too, have said such a move would go against the Constitution and amount to the president overstepping his powers. Any move by Mr Trump is sure to be challenged in the courts, resulting in chaos similar to that witnessed when the president sought to ban citizens from some Muslim-majority countries through executive orders, though it can also result in the judges finally clarifying whether the 14th amendment should apply to immigrants.

First Published: Oct 31, 2018 19:23 IST