Why Trump's Birthright Citizenship Plan Matters

It's starting one of the most substantive political debates yet
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2015 1:17 PM CDT
Why Trump's Birthright Citizenship Plan Matters
Donald Trump leaves the courthouse after reporting for jury duty in New York on Monday.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

One of the most talked about election topics at the moment is Donald Trump's proposal to end birthright citizenship for immigrants—the notion that anyone born in the US automatically becomes a citizen. "I don't think they have American citizenship," he told Bill O'Reilly on Fox last night, reports Poltico. Trump added that some "very, very good lawyers" agree with his position. "We have to start a process, Bill, where we take back our country." Some related takes:

  • 14th Amendment: It states, "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." That may seem clear cut, but CNN explains that the clause about "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" provides wiggle room for Trump's position. The candidate says he's not interested in amending the Constitution and argues he can end birthright citizenship without doing so.

  • Election over? At the Washington Post, Paul Waldman writes that "it's possible that the entire presidential election just got decided" over this issue. Trump is forcing other GOP candidates to state their position on birthright citizenship, and many are lining up behind him in varying degrees. "The simple fact is that if Republicans don’t improve their performance among Hispanic voters, they cannot win the White House. Period." And this might make it impossible.
  • Election not over: Trump's plan "may appeal to the most rapidly expanding electorate, senior citizens, and may have an even greater appeal to the millions of Republicans who stayed away from the polls in 2012 as well as the ethnic and blue-collar Democrats who crossed party lines to vote Republican in the congressional elections of 2014," writes Edward Erler at the National Review. "All of these voters outnumber any increase in the Latino vote," which typically goes to Democrats anyway.
  • But either way: Trump's run may have been dismissed as "merely a spectacle" early on, but with his immigration plan, "he seems to have started something even more engrossing: a substantive political debate," writes Kelefa Sanneh at the New Yorker. Some still think the issue is too important to be left to Trump, "but perhaps the topic was too politically risky, too, to be broached by anyone else."
(Read more Donald Trump 2016 stories.)

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