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.
Axios, Exclusive: Trump targeting birthright citizenship with executive order, Oct. 30, 2018
Office of the Federal Register, Trump's executive orders, last accessed Jan. 7, 2019
PolitiFact, Can Donald Trump end birthright citizenship with an executive order? Probably not, Oct. 30, 2018
Whitehouse.gov, presidential actions, last accessed Jan. 7, 2019
Wayback Machine, Internet Archive of Trump's immigration plan
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.
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.
Donald Trump campaign website, Immigration reform plan
CNN, Transcript, Early Start, Aug. 20, 2015
PolitiFact, Rand Paul says legality of birthright citizenship not fully adjudicated due to facts of 1898 case, Sept. 18, 2015
PolitiFact Texas, Ted Cruz says it's always been that babies born to U.S. citizens abroad are citizens from birth, Sept. 4, 2015
Congress.gov, H.R.140 - Birthright Citizenship Act of 2017, introduced Jan. 3, 2017
CNN, Hard-line anti-illegal immigration advocates hired at 2 federal agencies, April 12, 2017
Center for Immigration Studies, Birthright Citizenship in the United States: A Global Comparison, August 2010
The Hill, How Trump could change birthright citizenship, Aug. 21, 2015