What is birthright citizenship?

In his continuing promise to reduce immigration, President Trump has said he wants the US to get rid of birthright citizenship. Andres Mejer, immigration attorney, explains what birthright citizenship is. He talks about the history of how birthright citizenship came about in the United States and if it is possible for President Trump to get rid of it.

Transcript:

Andres Mejer  Now second big topic that we’re going to talk about today, birthright citizenship. Lo and behold Trump wants to eliminate it. Why is that? That’s a darn good question. What does he really want to achieve by eliminating birthright citizenship? What is birthright citizenship? It’s a legal right to citizenship, U.S. citizenship for all children born in the country’s territory regardless of parent’s legal status. 

Andres Mejer  So if I’m an immigrant and undocumented and I have a child in the U.S. My child will be a U.S. citizen. Period. My citizenship doesn’t matter as long as my child is born in the U.S. so it doesn’t matter if I go to Chile. And I have a child, that child will be a U.S. citizen because I’m a U.S. citizen today. But what happens if I’m not a U.S. citizen? Well, what if I’m a Green Card? Does my child get citizenship? Or if I’m here on a student visa or if I’m here on a work visa or if I’m here on a sports visa? Whatever the visa is if I’m here for a temporary period of time and I’m not a U.S. citizen, but I have a child here is my son or daughter a U.S. citizen? That’s the question that Trump is raising. 

Andres Mejer  He says they should not be period. So where does this birthright citizenship come from? It comes from English common law. It was established in the 160 0s hundreds and brought over to the colonies. They are over 30 countries actually think they are exactly 30 countries that have birthright citizenship. The U.S. is by no means the only one. In the U.S. birthright citizenship came to focus on race and slavery because the African-Americans that were slaves were not considered citizens. They had no rights whatsoever. They were property. So in 1868, they created the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution. The constitution specifically to gives the African-American ex-slaves citizenship. So now born in the U.S. means you’re a U.S. citizen, with small exceptions. If I’m if I’m a diplomat let’s say I’m the Chilean ambassador to the U.S. I come here for a four-year trip. 

Andres Mejer  And during that time my wife and I have a child. My child will not be a U.S. citizen just by virtue of my diplomatic status. Same thing if I’m a member of an occupying army. So I imagine Chile that becomes a real military powerhouse and decides New Jersey. We’re going to annex it. They come in. They take over. They take the state of New Jersey is now part of Chile. Imagine that. If I am part of that occupying army and I have a child here my child is not a U.S. citizen. And lastly, it’s Indians under tribal government. So the idea is neither of these three are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. That is the clause that Trump wants to focus on by saying undocumented immigrants also are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. and therefore no U.S. citizenship. Now they pay taxes a variety of different ways, their kids go to school, they use the roads, they face criminal charges if they’re charged with a crime, it’s going to be hard for the President to say not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress will not pass a bill there isn’t enough support. 

Andres Mejer  I don’t think there’s enough Republicans that want to pass it alone that even forget Democrats for a moment. Although Trump and others like him say immigrants come here to have children just to stay. The reality is a child born here with few exceptions will have to wait 21 years to file for me. 

Andres Mejer  And even if they do unless they’re in the military I’m not able to adjust my status if I entered illegally. The only way to be able to certainly a hundred percent of the time remove birthright citizenship is to amend the Constitution. How do you do that? Two ways. 

Andres Mejer  One you need a 66 percent majority of both the House and Senate. Now if you take all the house in the Senate and you put them outside and you ask them what color the sky is. Sixty-six percent of them will not agree on the color. One will say green one will say grey when the reality is it’s blue. That’s just what’s going on in our political culture. It is unfortunate but it is a reality. Two-thirds of all members of the house and all senators have to agree on the Amendment of the Constitution or through a constitutional convention called by 66 percent of the state legislatures. That is not going to happen at the moment certainly not on this issue. Any questions or comments please indicate below. If there is something you want us to talk about in the future indicated below.