Trump Can’t Abolish 14th Amendment
Last week, Donald Trump publicly floated the notion of abolishing the 14th Amendment (i.e., birthright citizenship) via executive order. Forget for a moment that it was ratified in 1868, three years after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, or that House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately said he couldn’t do that, here is what the president told Axios on HBO:
“We are the only country in the world where a person comes in … has a baby … and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous and has to end.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Trump’s alarming talk is totally wrong.
For starters, America is one of about 30 countries that recognize birthright citizenship. For another, a presidential executive order is no match for the constitutional authority that protects each and every amendment.
When asked if a president has the authority to abolish an amendment via executive order, Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said, “Aside from being unconstitutional, such an executive order would exacerbate racial tensions, exploit fears and drive further polarization across the country at a moment that calls for the promotion of unity and inclusion.”
Which begs the question, if President Trump could abolish an amendment with the stroke of a pen, what would prevent his successor, assuming he or she is a democrat, from doing the same thing vis a vis the second amendment? If that ever happened, the National Rifle Association would be the first to implore Congress to impeach said president.
This is why my good friend, Harvey Englander, has challenged the NRA’s leadership to make a strong, public statement about whether they support or oppose the President of the United States eliminating a constitutional amendment via executive order.
While the 14th Amendment is top of mind today, I wonder if Mr. Trump also would like to eliminate the 19th and 26th Amendments in the future? For those who need a refresher course, they guarantee two very large blocks of the electorate (i.e., women and 18- to 20-year-olds) the right to vote. Any guess how White House insiders Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway might react?
I don’t begin to know how or why President Trump came to his conclusion about the 14th Amendment, but it’s clear he hasn’t spent much time reading even the most basic civics text book. If he had, he would not just understand, he would embrace, what the amendment says:
“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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.”
Sorry, Mr. President. You cannot abolish any constitutional amendment via executive order.
Denny Freidenrich lives in Laguna Beach and is a prolific Southern California writer.