When news broke Tuesday morning that Donald Trump hopes to end birthright citizenship through an executive order, the plan had a familiar ring. The President talked a lot about such a plan on the campaign trail.
But he wasn’t the first. The GOP has been talking about ending birthright citizenship for years — and TPM has been reporting on those plans.
The idea of revisiting the 14th Amendment has been put forward at various points by GOP figures of diverse political stripes, from former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, from Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The idea has particular salience among those who are strong voting rights restrictionists — it would, obviously, change the makeup of the electorate over time — and has been championed by Kansas Secretary of State and GOP gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach.
Past proposals have contemplated Congress passing a law to limit birthright citizenship, but Trump is now suggesting he can do it by mere executive order. Whatever form it takes, it is likely to end up before the Supreme Court, with it’s newly invigorated conservative majority.
Proponents of ending birthright citizenship argue that the phrasing of the Amendment gives them ground to make their case. It reads: “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.”
“There’s some people excluded, because that’s what the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ mean and the Supreme Court has never had an occasion [to examine] what that means, and to specifically look at the question of the children of illegal aliens,” Kobach told TPM’s Tierney Sneed in 2015. “Any justice who sought to come to the conclusion that the Constitution requires citizenship for the children of illegal aliens would have to explain what the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ mean, and that’s a very difficult task for them to do.”
Here’s some reading from the early days of the presidential primaries to provide some more background.