Just a few days ago, President Donald Trump made the seemingly outlandish claim that he could issue an executive order abolishing the Constitutional right to American citizenship of babies born on our soil to parents who were not citizens.
Many prominent legal scholars – not to mention “the lying media” – quickly pointed out that a president could not ignore the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” There certainly does not appear to be any legal wiggle room to deny citizenship to any baby born here.
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So it does not take a great legal mind to see that Trump’s executive order would be unconstitutional. Very probably, the only legal means to abolishing the Fourteenth Amendment would be to repeal it.
For example, there was very widespread unhappiness when so-called Prohibition was introduced by the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919, which forbid the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.“ Fourteen years later the Twenty-first Amendment was passed, repealing the Nineteenth.
When the president’s legislative partner, House Speaker Paul Ryan, pointed out we would need to go through this lengthy legal process of passing a constitutional amendment to abolish the granting of citizenship to every baby born on U.S. soil – regardless of the legal status of its parents – Trump’s response was amazingly insulting. “Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions of birth on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about.”
Many of the president’s critics were saying, “There he goes again.” He was telling still another big lie, and then doubling down when critics challenged his veracity. But in this case – and in hundreds of others – Mr. Trump was not actually lying.
Like other ignoramuses, he loves to shoot from the lip, often making up facts to support his arguments. In the age of the Internet, there is, of course, no excuse for this behavior. It can easily be avoided by just making sure to google before you tweet.
But a man with such an amazingly short attention span is incapable of taking such precautions. Indeed, his legions of hard-core followers love his simplistic solutions to what may be very complex problems. When you throw red meat to attack dogs, they never demand a list of the ingredients.
And yet, it is actually conceivable that President Trump will ultimately win this legal battle. If he were to issue his executive order ending automatic birthright, it would immediately be challenged in federal court and very quickly make its way up to the Supreme Court.
Keep in mind that the law – and even the Constitution for that matter – are what the nine Justices say it is. While the Court is highly politicized, and the Republican – including Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – do have a five to four majority over the Justices appointed by Democratic presidents, it appears unlikely that Trump would prevail.
But consider this: During his first two years in office, Trump has already appointed two Justices. Were he to serve the rest of his term, he might get the opportunity to appoint still another one or two Justices, especially with a continued Republican majority in the Senate.
Now I hate to bring this up, but what if Trump were elected to a second term? It would appear quite likely that eventually the Court would see things his way on this issue. Were that to happen, I will be the first to admit that in this one instance the president was neither lying nor being a complete ignoramus.