While legal scholars argue over the constitutionality of President Trump’s threat to do away with birthright citizenship via an executive order, members of Congress from South Texas say they strongly oppose the proposal.
Were Trump successful he would have unilaterally circumvented the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to those born in the United States.
“The President has announced that he will use an executive order to rescind the constitutionally protected right that grants U.S. citizenship to anybody born on U.S. soil— this would be clearly unconstitutional,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
“In order to void a 150-year-old law, the President would require Congress to limit birthright citizenship, either via statute, or by overriding both the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) and the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause through an amendment to the Constitution.”
Cuellar pointed out that U.S. currently stands alongside 30 other countries around the world, including Canada, Mexico, and Argentina, in having birthright citizenship laws.
“I urge President Trump to work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to find long-term solutions that address faults in our immigration system— not threaten unconstitutional, unilateral executive action,” Cuellar said.
“I additionally ask that this matter not be caught in a legal fight that would distract us from addressing issues at the border in an effective and practical manner.”
President Trump resurrected the idea of denying birthright citizenship in an interview with Axios national political reporter Jonathan Swan.
Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is a first vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He said:
“The President does not have the authority to unilaterally change our Constitution. The 14th Amendment makes clear that those born or naturalized in the United States are citizens, and the President’s proposal to change that amendment would bypass the will of Congress and the American people solely for political gain,” Castro said.
“It’s clear this plan is solely to suit Trump’s goals of scapegoating immigrants, dividing our nation, and distracting us from his harmful policies, including deploying additional troops to our Southern border in response to migrants fleeing Central America. Congress cannot stand by as our President assaults our founding principles, and any move by this Administration to unilaterally eliminate birthright citizenship would be illegal, unacceptable and immediately challenged.”
Gina Ortiz is not in Congress yet but hopes to be following the November general election. A Democrat, Ortiz is running against U.S. Rep. William Hurd in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. The West Texas district is the largest geographically on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“As a first-generation American, I learned from a very young age that our country is exceptional,” Ortiz said. “Our exceptionalism lies not only in the values that built our nation, but in the people who embody those values each day. As an Air Force veteran, I took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution—this includes the 14th Amendment and the definition of citizenship within it.”
Ortiz added that the promises of the U.S. Constitution “are woven into the fabric” of the nation.
“I am disturbed at how Will Hurd, this Congress and this president are allowing them to unravel. Texas families deserve a representative who will do more than just talk about change. We need leaders with the moral courage to defend what we know to be true: people born here are American citizens.”
The AFL-CIO is also defending birthright citizenship. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy issued this statement:
“Last we checked, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution still says this: ‘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.'”
Levy said Trump’s “crazy move to cancel birthright citizenship by fiat” must mean an election is coming up.
“The White House fears the message that voters are about to send. The timing – immediately after a national tragedy triggered in part by a gunman’s hatred of immigrants – is despicable,” Levy said.
“Know this: The working people of Texas will defend the constitutional rights of immigrants. The Texas AFL-CIO believes so strongly in the sanctity of citizenship rights that we have launched our own Citizenship Program to guide eligible Texas residents through the naturalization process.”
Levy added: “Birthright citizenship is at the heart of immigrant rights, guaranteeing equal opportunity, equal justice and a fair shot for anyone born in the USA. No President can commandeer that right so long as the rule of law stands.”
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), rejected President Trump’s proposal to take away birthright citizenship to children born of certain immigrants.
“President Trump’s announcement that he is thinking of taking away birthright citizenship is a serious blow to our system of checks and balances, and to the Constitution itself,” said Angelica Salas, CHIRLA executive director.
“As so often happens with this administration, Mr. Trump is scapegoating immigrants with this proposal, to rally his base just days before a major election and to distract from the real damage he has already done to our system of checks and balances.”
Salas said taking away birthright citizenship harms the entire nation, not just immigrants.
“Once we lose the countervailing powers of Congress and the courts, no one is safe: those who are friends of the president will have legitimacy, and those who oppose him will not. Inalienable rights are no longer inalienable.
We have seen how erratic Mr. Trump can be, and how quickly those who are ‘in’ can end up dumped on the curb. We don’t need that kind of favoritism in regard to such an important matter as citizenship,” Salas said.
“Clearly President Trump is rallying his base with this announcement, so let us not lose sight of the importance of voting on Tuesday, November 6.”
Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund said that since the adoption of the 14th Amendment, the Constitution has granted all persons born or naturalized on U.S. soil with U.S. Citizenship.
“Any attempt by President Trump to overhaul this basic tenet of our democracy through an executive order would be un-American and downright illegal. Continuing to attack hard-working immigrants as a means of scoring political points ultimately hurts Latinos and all Americans,” Vargas said.
“Should the President move forward, we fully expect that any executive order revoking birthright citizenship would be swiftly blocked by the courts. NALEO Educational Fund is fully prepared to stand alongside our partners as we prepare to defend the U.S. Constitution and our rich history as a nation of immigrants.”
Vargas added: “At a time of increasing violence and hatred both at home and abroad, we should be working to build bridges, not walls among Americans. Our nation is at a crossroads, and we must decide what kind of a legacy we want to leave behind. History is watching. The choice is up to us.”