Trump’s latest idea — cruel and unconstitutional attack on American birthrights

Jesse Jackson

Rev. Jesse Jackson

The first sentence of the 14th Amendment makes it clear, “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.”

That has been the law of our great country for 150 years. Now President Trump wants to destroy it—a betrayal of the oath he took nearly two years ago to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

The 14th Amendment, according to professor Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School, essentially declares that if you were born here or naturalized it does not matter “if you’re male or female, rich or poor, Black or White, gay or straight, the daughter of a president or the son of an undocumented” immigrant.

“You’re a free and equal citizen.”

This principle of equal citizenship, Professor Amar adds, “was at the core of the Republican vision for post-Civil War America.”

The purpose of the birthright provision of the 14th Amendment was wide-ranging. It was a direct assault on the dreadful Dred Scott decision and overturned the idea that former slaves were not citizens and therefore had no rights a white man must respect. It reflected the language of the 1866 Civil Rights Act and negated the infamous Black Codes that were adopted to limit the rights of former slaves.

So when I first heard that President Trump wanted to revoke birthright citizenship with an executive order, and overturn 150 years of law, history, and equality, I was baffled. The idea was cruel, wrongheaded and unconstitutional. Surely, the president and his advisers must know that he cannot overturn a constitutional amendment with an executive order nor can Congress do it by passing a law. The only way constitutional amendment can be overturned is with a constitutional amendment.

He can’t be serious, I thought. Then I realized there are just seven days to go before the midterm elections. President Trump is trying to distract and divide us with harsh words and heartless policies.

This is a season of darkness. But with our votes, we can turn on the lights so bright that even President Trump will see that we will not be divided, distracted or discouraged—that we are united in taking back our country and preserving our American birthrights.