Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump announced on Monday August 17, 2015, another immigration-related proposal that would end the constitutional tradition of American birthright citizenship, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has supported his idea.
However, similarly to Trump’s proposal to build a wall spanning the entire American/Mexican border and making Mexico pay for it, repealing birthright citizenship will be an almost impossible process.
The first clause of the 14th Amendment says that any child born on American soil is automatically an American citizen, regardless of the immigration status of their parents. This clause was sanctioned in 1868 and meant to ensure that freed slaves were considered American citizens. In order to repeal birthright citizenship, Trump would have to persuade the Supreme Court to overturn this ruling, or somehow amend the Constitution. Amending the Constitution is a difficult procedure, and as such has only ever been successful in 27 cases over the entire history of the United States – 10 of which were passed by the founding fathers en masse.
Amending the Constitution requires approval by two thirds of the House and Senate, then ratification by three-quarters of the states, so Trump would have to convince 44 Democratic representatives and 13 Democratic senators (that’s more than a quarter of all Democratic senators in the country) to join with him and repeal in order to gain the votes required for the amendment to even go forward. Then he would have to get 38 states on board for ratification, including 5 non-Republican states and nonpartisan Nebraska.
So while it is nearly impossible that such an amendment would ever pass, it would not be good news for those immigrants who have American-born families. In 2012 it was estimated that 8.4% of the adult population in the United States were those who were born to first-generation immigrants. That number is expected to rise in future, and if birthright citizenship were repealed, that would mean a lot of hardship for those families who are undocumented and no longer have the knowledge that at least their children are safe in the country. First and second generation immigrants provide a lot of valuable services in the United States, and there would be a noticeable economic effect if those people were forced to move back to their home countries should Trump’s proposal ever come to fruition.
For further questions regarding birthright citizenship or if you’re looking for representation in a birthright citizenship or related case, please get in touch with Daniela Lyttle at Lyttle Law Firm. You can use the website, or if you prefer you can call 215-512-5225.