Trump states intention to revoke child citizenship rights
Legality of US president’s plan to override provisions of constitution queried by experts
US president Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive at Pittsburgh after the shooting at the city’s Tree of Life synagogue. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty
US president Donald Trump has threatened to revoke citizenship rights for some children born in America, in his latest attempt to focus political debate on immigration ahead of next week’s midterm elections.
In an interview with the website Axios, Mr Trump said he had been informed that he could, by executive order, end the automatic right to citizenship for those born in the US, which is enshrined in the US constitution. But legal experts immediately questioned the legality of such a move.
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States,” Mr Trump said. “It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
The right of people born in the United States is set out in the 14th amendment to the constitution which states that “all persons born or naturalised in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”.
Many countries – including all European Union member states – do not offer automatic citizenship rights to children born within their borders.
Ireland voted by more than 70 per cent in 2004 to amend the Constitution to change the system whereby babies born to non-Irish mothers in the State automatically became Irish citizens.
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham said he would introduce legislation “along the lines” of the president’s suggestion.
But House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan rejected the idea, saying the provisions of the 14th amendment were clear.
Pointing out that Republicans were not happy when Barack Obama changed immigration laws through executive action such as giving legal protection to so-called “Dreamers” – young people who were brought to the US when they were children – he said: “You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.”
Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi accused Mr Trump of trying to turn the focus away from some of the key issues affecting voters ahead of the November 6th elections. “President Trump’s new claim he can unilaterally end the constitution’s guarantee of citizenship shows Republicans’ spiralling desperation to distract from their assault on Medicare, Medicaid and people with pre-existing conditions,” she said, referring to healthcare policy.
Mr Trump’s proposal emerged after he announced plans to send more than 5,000 extra troops to the US-Mexican border to deal with migrants trying to enter the United States. Some 5,200 military members will be dispatched to the southern states of Arizona, Texas and California, to protect the border the administration said.
A caravan of thousands of migrants is making its way through central America but is unlikely to reach the US border for weeks.
In an interview with Fox News, Mr Trump also said that migrants seeking asylum in the US would be housed in “tent cities”.
“If they apply for asylum, we’re going to hold them until such time as their trial takes place. We’re going to hold them, we’re going to build tent cities, we’re gonna build tents all over the place,” he said.
As Mr Trump and his wife Melania travelled to Pittsburgh to offer their condolences to the victims of last Saturday’s attack on a synagogue in the city, thousands of mourners attended the first funerals of those who died. Services for brothers David Rosenthal (54) and Cecil Rosenthal (59), as well as Jerry Rabinowitz, a 66-year-old family doctor and 71-year-old Daniel Stein, took place on Tuesday.
Robert Bowers (46) has been charged with the murder of 11 people during a shooting spree at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday while prayer services were taking place.