The Saint Anselm Crier

Possible dangerous precedent from a controversial president

David Micali, Crier staff

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When President Donald J. Trump announced that he is planning to end birthright citizenship, the process through which an individual becomes an American citizen when born in the country, he drew criticism from both sides of the aisle. I believe that birthright citizenship is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and any executive order ending the practice would be unconstitutional.

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “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.”

In other words, if you are born in the United States or on a U.S. military base or a U.S. territory such as Guam, American Samoa or Puerto Rico (hence the “jurisdiction thereof” part), you automatically become a citizen.

The Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1868 and made all the former slaves, freed by the Thirteenth Amendment, U.S. citizens. The Fourteenth nullified the position asserted in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which had held that Americans descended from African slaves could not be citizens of the United States.

Overturning birthright citizenship by redefining the Fourteenth would have a profound impact on American born children of illegal immigrant parents. Under Trump’s new definition, these children would no longer be citizens.

According to the American Immigration Council, in May 2018, “almost six million citizen children under the age of 18 live with a parent or family member who [were] undocumented.”

If Trump were to redefine citizenship, those six million kids would lose their citizenship. To put that in perspective, the population of citizen children (0 to 18 years old) in the United States would drop by 12.37%. Any system put in place to deal with illegal immigration would be overrun by the increased number of “illegals.”

Additionally, reinterpreting the Fourteenth would have an impact on all the Supreme Court cases it has affected.

The Fourteenth is the backbone of several groundbreaking Supreme Court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (made segregation illegal), Roe v. Wade (made abortions legal), and Obergefell v. Hodges (made same-sex marriage legal). Reinterpreting the Fourteenth would call all those cases into question.

Although it is unlikely that segregation will become legal again, conservatives have threatened to overturn Roe and make abortions illegal since the case was decided in 1973.

Moreover, even though some conservatives support gay marriage and have tried to get the Republican Party to reverse its course on the issue, several conservatives, including Vice President Mike Pence, have vehemently opposed same-sex marriage. A redefinition of the Fourteenth could be the opportunity conservatives are looking for to overturn those two cases.

Finally, if President Trump were to overturn the Fourteenth and the court were to uphold his ability to do so, then that would have a profound impact on the powers of the president.

The President and every president after him could, in theory, overturn Amendments to the Constitution without going through Congress.

President Trump, who has repeatedly called the media “the enemy of the people” could strike down the First Amendment and the right to a free press. An anti-gun or pro-gun control president could abolish the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

The idea that a president could adjust and interpret a Constitutional Amendment without an act of Congress or the Supreme Court would turn our president into a king with unlimited and unrestricted power. It would be a terrible precedent and signal the beginning of the end of democracy in this country in favor of a strong executive.

If birthright citizenship were to be overturned or redefined as the President wants it to, it would have far-reaching effects, not just on immigration, but on several important Supreme Court cases.

This would redefine the power of the president and make our democracy less of a democracy. President Trump would be setting a dangerous precedent and one that can only lead to other sweeping changes in our democracy.

For these reasons, I do not agree with the President’s position.

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Possible dangerous precedent from a controversial president