Presidential Campaign

Donald Trump dumps the Constitution

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Donald Trump’s blind ambition and gigantic ego may be appreciated by a small cohort of Americans, but we wonder if his disregard and disrespect of the U.S. Constitution and/or lack of knowledge of that document appeals to them also.

{mosads}The prime example of Trump’s disrespect of our country’s foundation is his trashing the 147-year-old 14th Amendment.

From Trump’s formal immigration proposal: “End birthright citizenship. This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 21 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.”

This issue is a favorite of nativists like Trump.

The “natural-born” issue affects two current Republican presidential candidates: Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), born in Miami, and Canadian-born Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), whose mother was U.S.-born. A phony theory is that Rubio is not a “natural-born citizen” because his parents were not citizens when he was born in Miami. That specious argument is not valid.

The 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause: “Section 1. 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.”

Trump blatantly states that pregnant Mexican women wait until the last minute, then cross the Rio Grande to have their baby on American soil so that the baby is a 14th Amendment citizen. He uses the favorite epithet of nativist, modern-day Know Nothings; he calls them “anchor babies.” A Trump fantasy.

Ken Klukowski, legal editor of Breitbart News, focuses on the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” He thinks that Americans born under the 14th Amendment aren’t citizens at all because the court has never decided the issue of “jurisdiction.”

The 1898 Supreme Court confronted the issue in the U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark case that decided the meaning of the 14th Amendment in favor of the Chinese-American who was born in San Francisco. His legally present alien Chinese parents could never be American citizens under existing laws and treaties. The court ruled that his parents weren’t diplomats or officials of the emperor of China, so it didn’t matter who his parents were; he was born here. He was a born citizen.

Specifically, the court answered this question:

“[W]hether a child born in the United States, of parent of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States”?

The answer from the first examination of the 14th Amendment’s effect: “this court is of opinion that the question must be answered in the affirmative.”

More recently, in 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Rios-Pineda that:

“[The] respondents, a married couple, are natives and citizens of Mexico. … [H]e and respondent wife paid a professional smuggler $450 to transport them into this country, entering the United States without inspection through the smuggler’s efforts. …

INS then instituted deportation proceedings against both respondents. By that time, respondent wife had given birth to a child, who, born in the United States, was a citizen of this country. … During the pendency of the appeals, respondent wife gave birth to a second citizen child.”

While there are some who suggest that Wong Kim Ark is a weak support of birthright citizenship, the court was clear in Rios that a child born in the United States to illegally present Mexicans even under order of deportation is a U.S. citizen. End of discussion.

Trump has no clue about the 14th Amendment and its citizenship clause of which the Supreme Court had no problem unanimously relying on in 1985. The 14th Amendment ended the Civil War. Trump and his buddy, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), want to refight the Civil War; they will lose.

Trump’s “anchor baby” comment is an insult. Trump also insults those who relish the Constitution and its 147-year-old 14th Amendment. Millions of Americans have been born U.S. citizens under those clearly-stated 14th Amendment words. Does Trump want to take citizenship away from them or their families, too? Mr. Trump, the Supreme Court has already ruled that citizenship cannot be taken away without permission of the citizen (Afroyim v. Rusk, 1967).

The 14th Amendment is the greatest Republican political achievement in the party’s 161-year history, slightly less momentous than fighting and winning the Civil War itself. It might even be the greatest political achievement in history, considering that it includes “equal protection,” “due process” and natural-born citizenship which makes all Americans Americans and it extended the Bill of Rights to state government.

Contreras has written several books on immigration and immigration reform, available at

Tags 14th Amendment 2015 presidential campaign 2016 Republican primary birthright citizenship Donald Trump Immigration
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