By Ted Hesson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump said on Tuesday that if re-elected president in 2024, he would seek to end automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to immigrants in the country illegally, a plan that contradicts the how a 19th century amendment to the United States Constitution has long been interpreted.
Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in an increasingly crowded field of candidates, said in a campaign video posted to Twitter that he would issue an executive order directing federal agencies to halt what is known as the birthright citizenship. Such an action by Trump would certainly result in a legal challenge.
Citizenship by birth stems from the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1868, three years after the end of the American Civil War that ended the practice of black slavery in the Southern states and nullified a Supreme Court decision that held that slaves and free African Americans were not entitled to US citizenship.
The amendment granted citizenship to all persons “born or naturalized in the United States”, including former slaves, and was interpreted to apply whether or not the parents were legally in the country.
The proposed executive order, slated for the first day of a second Trump term, would require at least one parent to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for their children to automatically become U.S. citizens, his campaign said in a press release. .
While president in 2018, Trump said he planned to issue an executive order to limit birthright citizenship, but never followed through. Many jurists at the time doubted that Trump could use executive power to roll back the right.
Trump also on Tuesday criticized President Joe Biden, the Democrat who defeated him in 2020 and is seeking re-election in 2024, for a record number of migrants caught crossing the border illegally in recent years, calling the right of citizenship for children born on American soil of “magnet.” Trump noted that many countries restrict birthright citizenship for non-citizens.
Trump has sought to appeal to Republican voters on his party’s right flank who support a crackdown on immigration. As president, Trump pursued a hardline immigration policy and took steps to build a wall along the US-Mexico border that he promised as a candidate in 2016.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Mica Rosenberg)