A Few Thoughts on Birthright Citizenship

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

Most have probably already heard that President Trump told Axios in an interview that he seeks to remove birthright citizenship via an executive order.  As many have already explained, this move would be unconstitutional as it would violate the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Constitutional scholar Ilya Somin penned an excellent article on the subject that can be found here.  As I’ve previously pointed out, Donald Trump neither understands the Constitution nor respects the Constitution, and while this just the latest in his unconstitutional illiteracy, I believe that it may be purely for political points.

With the midterm elections just around the corner, Trump is trying to fire up his base.  He’s ramped up his nativist rhetoric by conjuring up images of “invasions” and dangerous immigrants.  This rhetoric accompanies the nativist myths that immigrants are here to steal jobs, get on welfare, and commit crimes, all of which have been debunked by the CATO Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh.  The president and his nativist supporters seek to paint their opponents as pro-invasion prior to the election.  Now they can paint pro-immigration candidates as pro-anchor baby as well, even though “anchor baby” is just a derogatory term for another United States citizen.  When people denigrate the native-born children of immigrants, they are denigrating fellow Americans that were born here under the protection of the United States Constitution.  Let that sink in for a bit.

The arguments against birthright citizenship usually go back to culture and economics.  Removing birthright citizenship would backfire in both regards.  As Alex Nowrasteh points out, birthright citizenship boosts immigrant assimilation.  If we removed birthright citizenship it would lower assimilation for children of immigrants. An apparent lack of cultural assimilation is one of the major arguments used by immigration restrictionists. Why would they seek to remove a policy that increases assimilation? As for the fiscal impacts, a study by the National Academies of Science found that the children of immigrants contribute more to taxes than their parents and the rest of the native-born population.  Removing birthright citizenship would negatively impact the amount of taxes a second-generation immigrant can pay as it would decrease their job opportunities and their wages. The nativist arguments against birthright citizenship fall flat when they are faced with facts.

President Trump’s idea behind removing birthright citizenship is flawed on all levels.  The move would be unconstitutional and an executive order can’t be used to change a constitutional amendment. It’s a move that would damage the economy and hinder immigrant assimilation.  It’s a nativist fantasy that is steeped in xenophobia and emotions rather than facts and respect for the United States Constitution.

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan