On October 30th, 2018, three days after a Pennsylvania white supremacist stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue with guns and murdered eleven people during a service and four days after a Florida man was arrested for mailing a series of glass-packed pipe bombs to public figures, United States President Donald Trump spoke out at length not against domestic terrorism, but against birthright citizenship:
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said, declaring he can do it by executive order.
When told that’s very much in dispute, Trump replied: “You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
“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 … with all of those benefits,” Trump continued. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
Trump added that the United States is the only country to allow birthright citizenship. This is not true. In reality, the United States is one of more than 30 countries that allow birthright citizenship, also called jus soli. It is enshrined in the Constitution by the Fourteenth Amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Nor can the United States Constitution be amended by executive fiat, by design:
Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. The original document is forwarded directly to NARA’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for processing and publication. The OFR adds legislative history notes to the joint resolution and publishes it in slip law format. The OFR also assembles an information package for the States which includes formal “red-line” copies of the joint resolution, copies of the joint resolution in slip law format, and the statutory procedure for ratification under 1 U.S.C. 106b.
The Archivist submits the proposed amendment to the States for their consideration by sending a letter of notification to each Governor along with the informational material prepared by the OFR. The Governors then formally submit the amendment to their State legislatures or the state calls for a convention, depending on what Congress has specified. In the past, some State legislatures have not waited to receive official notice before taking action on a proposed amendment. When a State ratifies a proposed amendment, it sends the Archivist an original or certified copy of the State action, which is immediately conveyed to the Director of the Federal Register. The OFR examines ratification documents for facial legal sufficiency and an authenticating signature. If the documents are found to be in good order, the Director acknowledges receipt and maintains custody of them. The OFR retains these documents until an amendment is adopted or fails, and then transfers the records to the National Archives for preservation.
A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States). When the OFR verifies that it has received the required number of authenticated ratification documents, it drafts a formal proclamation for the Archivist to certify that the amendment is valid and has become part of the Constitution. This certification is published in the Federal Register and U.S. Statutes at Large and serves as official notice to the Congress and to the Nation that the amendment process has been completed.
The American Civil Liberties Union added its analysis on Twitter:
This is a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms.
— ACLU 🗳 (@ACLU) October 30, 2018