On Tuesday last week, President Donald Trump revealed his plan to end birthright citizenship in the United States of America – the principle that every child born on US soil is automatically a native-born citizen, regardless of the origin or immigration status of the parents.
He made this known to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan in a taped interview for Axios’s upcoming HBO series. The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution which grants US citizenship to persons born on US soil was passed by Congress in 1866 after the bloody Civil War between the North and pro-slavery South and ratified by three-quarters of the US states two years later.
The amendment overturned the infamous 1857 US Supreme Court ruling in the “Dred Scott v. Sandford” case which held that African-Americans could not be US citizens.
“All persons born or naturalised in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,” the amendment reads.
President Donald Trump, in the said interview, said he was considering using an executive order to abolish “birthright” citizenship for children of non-citizens and illegal immigrants.
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States,” Trump said. “It’s ridiculous. And it has to end,” he argued.
Though the executive order does not appear to have actually been drafted yet, but as expected, Trump’s comments on it have immediately received more attention than the things the administration is actually doing (or is planning to do) on immigration because of the just concluded midterm elections.
Those actions include sending 5,000 troops to the US-Mexico border in anticipation of a “caravan” of a few thousand people; publishing draft regulations that would allow for indefinite family detention and substantially raise economic requirements for immigrants applying for green cards. He is also said to be considering a plan – possibly to be announced in the coming days or week – to use the travel-ban provision of US law to stop many or all asylum-seekers from even entering the United States.
As different terrorist groups are recruiting everyday and with Trump’s stand on fighting the scourge head-on, this measure is a welcome development that will go a long way to nipping it in the bud.
According to a study by Pew Research Centre, about 275,000 babies were born to the parents of unauthorised immigrants in the United States in 2014 – around seven per cent of the four million births in the country that year. Given the rate of terrorism in the world today, this figure is worrisome and, if not properly checked, it is most likely going to double in the next five years.
It is sad that many of these children born in the US never stay in the country beyond infancy; they are usually taken to nations of their parents’ origin and are trained to hate America, yet they are American citizens.
Ending birthright citizenship should be viewed beyond the restrictionist immigration proposal that is hardest to disentangle from simple xenophobia: the fear of immigrants changing the character of America and overrunning its (white) population.
It should be viewed beyond the text of the Constitution, American history, and the rule of law – a comfortable register for elite conservative thinkers to speak in. Its urgency as an issue does not just rely on fears about irreversible cultural change – that continuing to grant birthright citizenship will result in the loss of something irreducibly American, it is more than that.
It is not in doubt that the US has applied several measures to check terrorism in the country: improving border controls, stopping foreign terrorist fighters and making use of air passenger data. Others include stepping up the exchange of information, tackling the financing of terrorism, reducing access to dangerous weapons and preventing radicalisation.
President Trump’s stand on illegal immigration is also commendable -people who have no legal business to do in America should not be allowed to go there. Everyone should work towards building his nation and the world will be a better place for all.
We applaud this policy as part of the desire of this newspaper to check the ‘been-to’ syndrome prevalent in the country. For most Nigerians, it has become a status symbol to have their babies abroad. The initial excuse by those who indulge in this was that health facilities in the country did not meet their ‘high’ taste. When that fallacy was debunked, another funny excuse was contrived as having babies abroad is seen as offshore investment to take advantage of the law quoted above.
In our opinion, this attitude is unnecessary if not reprehensible. Nigerians owe themselves a duty to stay home and build a future for their wards the type they want to secure for them in America and Europe. We must begin to be proud of our national heritage. If President Trump is going to help achieve that by his envisaged policy, then all well and good.
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