EDITORIAL: Birthright citizenship is long-held ideal

Executive order would contradict American values

A main talking point of President Donald J. Trump’s since his 2016 campaign has been immigration and the perceived danger that undocumented immigrants pose to American citizens. As the midterm elections approach, the president has been returning to the topic, arguably with the aim of striking fear into the hearts of voters. A poll by the Pew Research Center showed that, nationally, 75 percent of Republican voters see illegal immigration as the country’s biggest problem right now. And that worry is especially being bolstered with attention being turned toward the “caravan” of Central American migrants walking to the United States border through Mexico, where the Defense Department, apparently aiming to "harden" entrances into the country, has mobilized 5,000 troops

Very recently, though, Trump has taken his harsh anti-immigration rhetoric to the next level, stating in an interview that he intends to utilize an executive order to undo the 14th Amendment’s long-standing guarantee that all people born on United States soil are automatically citizens. 

At first glance, from the standpoint of a politically conservative-leaning person, this proposition should seem at least somewhat unsettling. First, executive orders themselves are, by nature, a rather authoritarian concept — which would be the opposite of the conservative or Republican value of “small” Federal government. Also, conservatives tend to prefer more literal and strict interpretation of the constitution that matches exactly the thoughts of the framers. But the language used in the 14th Amendment seems not to be nuanced or difficult to interpret at all — in fact it seems very straight-forward: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States …” For the president, a member of the Republican Party, to completely disregard the 14th Amendment, which has set a citizenship precedent for 150 years, is puzzling and contradictory.  

Some legal scholars are saying that this executive order would be illegal, but it seems as if Trump and his constituents are willing to test it in court. In an interview with Politico on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence made the argument that since the Supreme Court never ruled on the language of part of the 14th Amendment , “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” it may be the case that the Amendment does not apply to those who are in the United States illegally. But this executive order seems to have the potential to make an impact far beyond undocumented immigrants. 

It could go without saying, but it is valuable to reiterate the fact that the United States is a nation of immigrants. This proposed executive order is contrary to the fundamental ideals and principles of our country. In the United States, we do not judge someone based on their blood ancestry — we value them as human beings and accept them as they are. Throughout history, people have fought tooth and nail against love and acceptance, like our president seems to be doing with regard to undocumented immigrants. But those values will undoubtedly prevail in the face of xenophobia, prejudice and hate, just as they have managed to do so many times before. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 

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