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Birthright citizenship makes America great


This week the president promised to unilaterally end birthright citizenship for new Americans residing in the country, further inflaming xenophobic rhetoric a week before the midterm elections.

While not unique as more than 30 countries have a similar policy, birthright citizenship has granted the U.S. a special place in the world as millions of people have shared in the unique experiment that anyone can be an American regardless of one’s ancestry.

{mosads}Indeed, the security that their children will attain citizenship and fare better than their ancestors is a fundamental tenet for new Americans — including Trump’s immigrant grandfather and mother — who believe in the American Dream.

Birthright citizenship is what makes America great. 

In 1868, the U.S. ratified the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which declared 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.”

Throughout history, countless scholars have uniformly agreed that any legal attempt to negate birthright citizenship through executive order is unconstitutional. 

The United States Supreme Court has also upheld the obvious words of the 14th amendment, in both U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark and in Plyler v. Doe where the justices interpreted the 14th amendment to apply to undocumented as well as documented non-citizens.

Each time that birthright citizenship has been under attack, the heart and common sense of the American people have prevailed. We are faced with yet another attack. 

Dismantling birthright citizenship is un-American. Those who seek to terminate this enshrined American value are fueled by xenophobic interpretations and erroneous comparisons to other country practices.

America is great precisely because we are not like the old world: France and Ireland have done away with birthright citizenship. Germany and the United Kingdom have degraded citizenship by granting it only to a person if at least one of his or her parents is a citizen or permanent resident.

Even Republicans and non-lawyers, are clear about our constitutional tradition. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) dismissed the idea saying such attempt is not consistent with the 14th Amendment and the president cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.

Ironically, while Trump mocks Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for her claim (though weak at best) of Native American heritage, Trump is similarly attempting to paint himself and his supporters as native and the only group entitled to claim American citizenship.

Trump’s immigrant lineage, however, mirrors the story of all of his supporters and the millions of Americans in this country.

In 1885, Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich, immigrated to the U.S. at age 16. Friedrich briefly traveled back to Germany where he met Trump’s grandmother. Both settled back in New York City where his grandmother gave birth to Fred, Trump’s father. 

Fifty years later, the immigrant tradition continued as Trump’s mother, Mary, immigrated to the U.S. leaving Scotland behind for better opportunities

Along with millions of his supporters, Trump’s father and Trump himself have been clear beneficiaries of our constitutional tradition of a nation granting automatic citizenship to the children of immigrants.

Most importantly, birthright citizenship is the modern and logical principle that citizenship of a person is determined by the place where a person was born as opposed to citizenship through blood lineage, nobility ancestry or economic standing. 

The U.S. has come a long way from an era when only pharaohs, kings, the nobility, or white heterosexual men would determine the destiny of a nation. Birthright citizenship bolsters American democracy.

Being an American has always been about believing in the noble ideal that any person can embrace the responsibility and privilege of American citizenship — whether acquired or through birth — and the fundamental belief that all are endowed with the inalienable right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Instead of protecting citizenship, Trump’s latest attempt to distort the Constitution debases the rights of all citizens. 

There is only one solution that will counter Trump’s plan to flout American values — and that is to vote. 

Vote on Nov. 6 for candidates who will defend the Constitution and our values as a nation of immigrants. This is what makes America great.

Cesar Vargas and Yesenia Mata are directors of the Dream Action Coalition and national activists for

Tags birthright citizenship Cesar Vargas Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Immigration Paul Ryan Yesenia Mata

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