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Trump Gives His Read of the 14th Amendment on Twitter

He zeroes in on 5 key words
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2018 11:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Whether President Trump can end birthright citizenship with an executive order comes down to one's reading of the 14th Amendment. As NPR explains in a fact-check piece, a "small but vocal group of conservative legal scholars" have zeroed in on five crucial words, bolded here: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." Those scholars say those words have been misinterpreted and that the authors' true intention was that citizenship not be extended to the children of noncitizens. More:

  • The Wall Street Journal's editorial board agrees with NPR's take and gives more historical background, writing "'jurisdiction' is well understood as referring to the territory where the force of law applies, and that means it applies to nearly everyone on US soil. The exceptions in 1868 were diplomats (who have sovereign immunity) and Native Americans on tribal lands. Congress later granted Native Americans birth citizenship while diminishing tribal sovereignty."

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  • On Twitter Wednesday, Trump referenced those key words in making his argument to the contrary. He wrote in a trio of tweets (here, here, and here): "So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof.' Many legal scholars agree..... ....Harry Reid was right in 1993, before he and the Democrats went insane and started with the Open Borders (which brings massive Crime) 'stuff.' Don’t forget the nasty term Anchor Babies. I will keep our Country safe. This case will be settled by the United States Supreme Court! The World is using our laws to our detriment. They laugh at the Stupidity they see!"
  • Lawyer George Conway, husband to Kellyanne Conway, aired his view in an op-ed written with Neal Katyal for the Washington Post: "Sometimes the Constitution's text is plain as day and bars what politicians seek to do. That's the case with President Trump's proposal to end 'birthright citizenship' through an executive order."
  • Reuters adds more history, reporting that the amendment was written after the Civil War with former slaves in mind. Conway and Katyal elaborate in their op-ed: "Birthright citizenship sprang from the ashes of the worst Supreme Court decision in US history, Dred Scott v. Sandford, the 1857 decision that said that slaves, and the children of slaves, could not be citizens of the United States. The blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans was shed to repudiate that idea."
(Critics pounce on the timing of Trump's move.)

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