Will Anchor Babies Lead to the End of Birthright Citizenship?

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President Trump said Wednesday that administration officials are taking a close look at the possibility of ending birthright citizenship, which has allowed illegal immigrants to anchor themselves to a U.S. citizen by doing no more than having a child on American soil. Trump, who has spoken out against the inherent unfairness of “anchor babies” since his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, assured reporters that this tool was not off the table.

“We’re looking at that very seriously,” Trump confirmed to reporters. “Birthright citizenship, where you have a baby on our land – walking over the border, have a baby, congratulations, the baby’s now a U.S. citizen. We are looking at birthright citizenship very seriously. It’s frankly ridiculous.”

Trump’s remarks drew an explosion of hysteria from the left (and from a few figures on the right), and the word “unconstitutional” was thrown about quite a lot. This is easy to understand, since birthright citizenship does indeed emanate from the Constitution. Explicitly, the 14th 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.

The 14th, of course, was enacted in the wake of slavery’s abolition as part of the reconstruction effort. But, perhaps heralded by the coerced way in which it was ratified (southern states were essentially forced to sign on as a condition of their re-entry into the Union), it has since become one of the most controversial amendments in our founding document. Its interpretation has been at the heart of such landmark Supreme Court cases as Bush v. Gore, Obergefell v. Hodges, and Roe v. Wade. Put another way, the “equal protection” part of the clause has given people a lot of room to claim that things are in the Constitution…that actually aren’t.

Trump, of course, isn’t talking about the “equal protection” clause – he’s talking about the first line. But there is controversy there, as well. Specifically, that line that says “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Are illegal immigrants really counted under such a clause? It’s far from clear.

If Trump moves forward with a move to end birthright citizenship, though, we will finally get a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether or not this practice is actually constitutional. If it’s struck down, it could be a definitive game-changer as it pertains to illegal immigration.