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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde July 15, 2020

Donald Trump falls short on promise to end birthright citizenship

President Donald Trump's promise to end birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to parents here illegally became a constitutional debate among scholars and pundits, but has not materialized into action.

Throughout his presidency, Trump floated the idea of delivering on this promise through an executive order. But he has not signed one toward that end.

Trump has suggested that Congress should be the one to end birthright citizenship, "because that's permanent." But neither the House of Representatives or the Senate has passed a measure to help Trump achieve his goal.

Two Republicans tried to push Trump's promise forward, without success.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa introduced a bill January 2019 so that U.S. citizenship would only apply to a person born to a U.S. citizen or national, to a lawful permanent resident, or to an immigrant in active military service. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas in February 2019 introduced a resolution that expressed disapproval of birthright citizenship, saying the 14th Amendment "has been manipulated and abused by illegal aliens to unfairly gain citizenship for their children and incentivizes illegality." The bill and the resolution were each referred to a House committee and subcommittee, but there was no House vote on either of them.

Legal experts have told PolitiFact that birthright citizenship is bolstered by both the Constitution and by statute. An attempt to end the practice through executive order is bound to be challenged in court, they said.

To date, Trump has not succeeded in his pledge to end birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to parents illegally in the country. We rate this a Promise Broken.

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde January 7, 2019

Donald Trump stalls on promise to end birthright citizenship

President Donald Trump has talked a lot about unilaterally fulfilling his campaign promise to end birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to parents living here illegally. But he's yet to take action that matches his words.

"You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order," Trump said in an October 2018 interview with Axios. Trump said he had discussed the idea with his counsel.

But Trump has not signed an executive order restricting birthright citizenship. We found no record of it within the Office of the Federal Register nor is it listed in the White House record of presidential actions.

If Trump does sign an order to limit or end birthright citizenship for certain groups, it will likely be challenged in courts.

Legal experts have told us that birthright citizenship is bolstered by both the Constitution and by statute, and that the longstanding application of birthright citizenship is a strong argument for keeping it in place. However, they also say that certain wording ("subject to the jurisdiction thereof") regarding birthright citizenship that appears in both the constitutional amendment and the statute give opponents of birthright citizenship wiggle room in the debate.

In the last Congress, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced a bill to advance Trump's promise. It didn't get farther than that.

It remains to be seen if the new Congress will pass a bill to end birthright citizenship. A Republican effort on that goal is also likely to see opposition from Democrats, who represent the majority in the House of Representatives.

With no movement on Trump's campaign promise, we rate this pledge Stalled.

Our Sources

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde April 21, 2017

House bill introduced to end birthright citizenship

Donald Trump as a presidential candidate considered the end of birthright citizenship one way to improve immigration and "make America great again."

An immigration reform plan posted on Trump's campaign website says birthright citizenship "remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it's the wrong policy, including Harry Reid who said 'no sane country' would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants."

In an August 2015 interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, Trump affirmed his position to eliminate birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to parents living here illegally. He said it may take two terms to fulfill this proposal.

There is a lot of debate on who should have U.S. citizenship at birth and the legal hurdles to change that provision, which is outlined in the 14th Amendment.

But we haven't seen Trump, or his team, raise this issue publicly since taking office Jan. 20, 2017.

Jeff Sessions in his Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general was asked if he believed there should be more requirements to become a U.S. citizen, other than being born in the United States. He said he would leave it up to Congress to decide.

"I would be focusing my attention on enforcing the laws that exist and I guess it would be Congress' duty to wrestle with whether to change it or not," Sessions said Jan. 10, 2017.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced a bill Jan. 3, 2017, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act so that an individual born in the United States becomes a citizen at birth if at least one parent is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or immigrant in active service in the U.S. armed forces.

The bill was referred on Jan. 23 to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and has 22 Republican co-sponsors.

A recent executive branch hire has fueled speculation that Trump is still interested in this issue. CNN reported in April that Jon Feere joined the administration as an adviser to Thomas D. Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.

Feere has questioned the practice of granting U.S. citizenship to children born to parents in the country illegally. He used to be a legal policy analyst for Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration policies. In August 2015, Feere contributed an article to The Hill headlined "How Trump could change birthright citizenship."

"There are two ways a president could attempt to narrow the scope of the Citizenship Clause: get Congress to write legislation or take executive action," Feere wrote.

While Trump has not been publicly vocal about this issue since becoming president, there is a bill in the House to advance this proposal. We rate this promise In the Works.

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