Opinion: Trump courts votes with questioning of right to citizenship

President Donald Trump, in a pre-midterm snit, is obsessing over his fear of brown babies.

It’s not surprising.

After all, this is a president who manages to label any group of Latino migrants as “very bad people.” It was only a matter of time before Trump latched on to the fear tactic of immigrants increasing their numbers by giving birth on U.S. soil.

So Trump is doubling down on the irrational theory that he can undo the 14th Amendment, which guarantees birthright citizenship, by issuing an executive order.

Never mind that birthright citizenship has been in place for 150 years. Or, that Trump’s theory was quickly derided by constitutional scholars who wisely pointed out that changes to the U.S. Constitution can only be made by three-quarters of the states ratifying a joint resolution.

There are a lot of challenges within immigration law that need to be addressed by Congress. Foremost is creating a more efficient and fair system to allow necessary workers and other deserving immigrants into the country legally. But going after yet-to-be-born children of the people who seek refuge here is a backward idea, boldly transparent in its xenophobic underpinnings.

Birthright citizenship is continuously raised by the most extreme voices to the right within U.S. politics. White supremacists are big fans too.

They’d like nothing more than being able to accomplish more fragmenting of American society along racial and ethnic lines. Tinkering with birthright citizenship would create a caste system of sorts. Because high numbers of immigrants today are Latino and Asian, it could mean putting the U.S.-born children of legal permanent residents (but not full U.S. citizens) into a separate status, not quite equal to everyone else.

Does that sound familiar? A bit like the old “separate but equal” messaging that grounded legalized segregation in the U.S? It should.

Which is part of the reason that some fellow Republicans quickly denounced Trump’s little trial balloon, which the president revealed in an interview this week with Axios.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was among the first to weigh in, pointing out that amendments to the Constitution cannot be overturned by executive order.

Ryan’s factual remark earned him a Twitter tirade the following day by Trump who said Ryan needed to be focused on the upcoming midterms, vowing that birthright citizenship “will be ended one way or the other.”


The president is acting as a willing stooge for the ideals of white nationalists. And he’s too delusional to realize it.

Therein lies the problem for more fair-minded and academically unchallenged people within the GOP who are focused on winning tight Congressional races.

Scholars have reconstructed the 1866 debates in the Senate when the 14th Amendment was discussed. The rights of Chinese immigrants and unwelcomed groups, like gypsies, were vetted. Also discussed, was how the amendment would impact native tribal sovereignty. It was not, as some profess, solely an attempt to rectify the Dred Scott decision, which said that people of African descent could not be citizens.

Undermining birthright citizenship as a core concept of our democracy did not begin with this administration. Nor is it likely to end with this latest attack.

Trump’s rants are a not-so-subtle attempt to churn up and turn out his base supporters for the midterm elections.

Prominent Republicans are right to be aghast that the president would so boldly stir the veins of nativism to court votes. We all should be.

Writes for Tribune Content Agency.

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