Trump cannot change the U.S. Constitution by executive order. The 14th Amendment is clear.
Elected officials, ranging from House Speaker Paul Ryan to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, are right to push back on President Donald Trump’s absurd and offensive proposal to undermine the birthright guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
Leaders should continue to reject any further effort by Trump to weaken the amendment declaring that those born in America are citizens.
All Americans and elected representatives should do everything they can to prevent the country from being further dragged into another dark period of governance marked by racism and fear of newcomers.
In times of uncertainty — including periods with high immigration and economic transitions — we should look for ways to uphold, not attack, the Constitution and America’s lasting values of compassion and strength through diversity.
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This country has a long history of politicizing the tension and confusion around immigration policy. Both parties are guilty but Trump has taken this to an abhorrent level starting with his “Muslim ban” and now his attack on birthright citizenship.
This happened in the early 1800s after some slaves in the young nation were freed and sought citizenship. That prompted a vicious political fight and the terrible Supreme Court Dred Scott decision that slaves could not be citizens or sue for their freedom. This precipitated the Civil War that nearly destroyed the United States.
Congress then passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and the 14th, which assured rights, rebalanced federal and state powers and sorted some postwar issues. But its opening statement addressed the hot button question of birthright, telling the day’s right-wing mob of nativists and haters to get stuffed:
“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.”
This was affirmed in an 1898 Supreme Court case, resolving that children born in America to Chinese immigrants were indeed American. That came amid another backlash against newcomers and the dawn of policies attempting to regulate immigration. A century later those policies are still a muddle, creating fear and uncertainty for those seeking to live in the United States and those already here.
Still, the 14th Amendment is unambiguous, with no room for Trump to exploit a technicality to carve up its essence. If he tries, he’ll fail, said Stewart Jay, Emeritus Pendleton Miller Endowed Chair of Law at the University of Washington School of Law.
“The provision is really clear,” Jay said. “There are a lot of unclear things in the Constitution. This is not one of them.”
Presidents cannot revise the Constitution with executive orders. Americans should be horrified that one is trying to do so, though we’re no longer surprised to hear another toxic, attention-grabbing pronouncement from the White House.
This is also the election silly season. Trump has long courted fearful voters by demonizing foreigners seeking a better life in America, at least when he isn’t employing them at his companies or marrying them.
Most Americans know the country benefits immensely from immigrants, who are crucial to our economic strength and vitality.
There are real and pressing threats.
Foreign governments seeking to destabilize and weaken America are interfering with our democracy, sowing discord and misleading voters with sophisticated misinformation. Lax firearm regulations — contrary to the “well regulated” stipulation of the Second Amendment — and the absurd proliferation of guns are enabling regular slaughter of worshippers, schoolchildren and ordinary Americans.
Mr. President, stop wasting our time by trying to stir up things settled 150 years ago and focus on what’s really important.