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UC Berkeley students, experts weigh in on Trump's desire to alter birthright citizenship law

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PRIYANKA KARTHIKEYAN | FILE

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OCTOBER 31, 2018

President Donald Trump said in an interview with Axios on Monday that he plans to alter the birthright citizenship law, a law that states that anyone born on U.S. soil is automatically a citizen, for children of noncitizens born on U.S. soil.

Campus experts in constitutional law and politics gave their take on whether or not this law can actually go into effect.

“My sense is that it’s very unlikely that he could (alter this law). … It would have to go through layers of review, but he does have the final say in it,” said Robert Van Houweling, UC Berkeley associate professor of political science. “In the end, what’s constitutional is what the court orders, and we won’t know until they make that determination.”

Houweling added that the 14th Amendment is the “real impediment” to Trump’s attempt to alter the law. UC Berkeley School of Law professor Leti Volpp added that some Trump supporters may argue that the part of the 14th Amendment that states “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” is intended to exclude noncitizens; however, according to Volpp, the majority of legal scholars argue that is untrue.

According to Volpp, Trump will not be able to alter the law because the Constitution guarantees citizenship to those born in the U.S.

“If you look at the text of the Congressional debates it is clear that the birthright citizenship clause was intended to grant citizenship through birth in the territory to noncitizens, in general, regardless of their immigration status,” Volpp said in an email. “There is no chance that Trump can get rid of birthright citizenship in this way, and we should not let our attention be diverted through his empty tweets.”

Houweling argues that though there is a small chance that this law can pass in court, many problems can arise from its passage.

“The practical, ethical and moral problems that come with not having birthright citizenship is enormous,” Houweling said. “It’s very unlikely to succeed, but it’s certainly one more piece of evidence that it’s important for people who care about public policies like this to get out and vote.”

Campus senior Katrina Songco said she believes that this law cannot be repealed during Trump’s presidency but that it may set precedent for weakening the law in the future. She added that Trump’s claims will only increase anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay said this attempt to alter the law is not only restrictive, but also very concerning.

“The United States is a nation of immigrants (while built on stolen indigenous land), and this would change one of the fundamental ways in which diversity in the United States has been increased,” Khalfay said in an email.

Mariam Zagub is the lead race and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MZagub.
LAST UPDATED

NOVEMBER 01, 2018


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