Abroad in America: It’s Been an Awful Few Days

Opinions on the matter are strong and pointed, as you might imagine, particularly since such a move would have grave constitutional implications — because the president is proposing to use an executive order to do it, he would effectively be circumventing Congress in making policy.

At issue is the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which says that “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.” (Congress, the legislative arm of the federal government, handles the Constitution.)

Mr. Trump’s supporters argue that the amendment applies only to freed slaves, not to children of immigrants born on American soil.

Mr. Trump discussed birthright citizenship while campaigning for president, and since then, his administration has been quietly batting the issue around.

“The notion that simply being born within the geographical limits of the United States automatically confers U.S. citizenship is an absurdity — historically, constitutionally, philosophically and practically,” Michael Anton, a lecturer at Hillsdale College and a former national security official in the Trump administration, wrote in The Washington Post in July.

Soon after the news broke on Tuesday, the conservative commentator Bill Kristol, an implacable critic of Mr. Trump, condemned the president’s announcement on Twitter and said it presented a dilemma for Trump supporters: “Do they support Trump or the Constitution?”

Writing in The Hill earlier this year, Linda Chavez, a former official in the Reagan administration and now the director of the Becoming America Initiative, an advocacy group, said that the president’s constitutional interpretation is just plain wrong, resting on the “tortured” insertion of an extraneous “or” into the original congressional argument.

The proposal, she said, would “narrow the definition of U.S. citizenship and deny the birthright of millions of Americans, including not only the estimated 4.5 million children born to at least one parent who resides illegally in the country but also to millions more whose parents reside here legally as permanent legal residents, students and temporary visa holders.”

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