"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." — the opening sentence of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
The long tradition that persons born in the U.S. automatically become citizens of the U.S. is baked into our national DNA.
The idea that birthright citizenship could be upended by an executive order from President Donald Trump is simply wrong and should be offensive to lovers of the Constitution.
The president said this week in an interview with "Axios on HBO" that he wants to "remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil" by way of executive order.
The timing of this proposal suggests that it is an effort by the president to energize his base, for whom preventing illegal immigration is a big issue, in the final week before an election in which the Republican majority in both the House and the Senate hang in the balance.
There's nothing inherently wrong with trying to energize one's base.
Nor does it matter what the president's motive is in proposing to issue such an order at this time. Such an order would be unconstitutional, plain and simple.
It's ironic that a Republican president, post-Barack Obama, would propose using an executive order to undermine the long-understood meaning of the Constitution, given the fury of Republicans over Mr. Obama's aggressive use of executive orders.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is clear. It says all persons born in the United States are citizens.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1898 case United States vs. Wong Kim Ark, held that a child born of Chinese immigrants is a citizen. The majority opinion said that "to hold that the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution excludes from citizenship the children, born in the United States, of citizens or subjects of other countries would be to deny citizenship to thousands of persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German, or other European parentage who have always been considered and treated as citizens of the United States."
It is preposterous and offensive that any administration would seek to undermine a citizenship right by fiat, which is what an executive order is. If Mr. Trump and other Republicans want to amend the Constitution, there's a process to do that. Let them try.
The framers knew better.