McKenna: Trump’s plan to end birthright citizenship ‘dubious argument’
President Trump has designs to end birthright citizenship in the United States, but former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna warns it’ll be a road to hoe legally.
Trump recently said he is considering changing how citizenship works in the United States, particularly around birthrights. The president told Axios on HBO that he could change the law with an executive order, making it so children born in the country do not have citizenship if their parents aren’t citizens themselves.
The main obstacle: The United States Constitution, and more specifically, the 14th Amendment that guarantees birthright citizenship.
“The president can’t change language in the Constitution — he can’t rewrite the amendment,” McKenna told KIRO Radio.
So then what’s Trump’s thinking behind this executive order?
“What I think he’s trying to do is argue that the amendment was never intended to cover people in the country illegally, and therefore doesn’t cover their children,” said McKenna.
The 14th Amendment was originally adopted to strengthen the Civil Rights Act of 1866. “The issues were freed slaves, free blacks, and Native Americans,” McKenna noted. Basically, the amendment wasn’t originally adopted to consider illegal immigrants.
Even with that being so, “that’s a dubious argument,” said McKenna, citing the clear language of the amendment that states, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States … are citizens of the United States.”
Beyond the interpretation of the 14th Amendment, enforcing any executive order that halts birthright citizenship would prove massively difficult from a logistical standpoint.
“When a child is born in this country, there isn’t an INS guy in the delivery room,” Dave Ross of Seattle’s Morning News pointed out. “Presumably, the doctors and the nurses just sign the birth certificate. Are they going to go into certain neighborhoods where they suspect illegal mothers may be giving birth to babies and wait outside to seize the document before it’s given to the parents?”
“What do you do at a practical level?” asked McKenna. “It doesn’t seem to be very well thought out in any detail.”
If Trump does end up issuing what would be a hotly contested executive order, current Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has already promised not to stand idly by.
“President Trump can’t alter the Constitution through executive order,” Ferguson said Tuesday. “If he tries, we will immediately take him to court — and defeat him again,” referring to a previous legal victory won over the president’s travel ban in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The president finds himself mired in controversy concerning immigration, promising to issue an executive order on asylum-seekers within the coming week, and stating that he’s told border guards to treat any rocks thrown by immigrants at the border as rifles.