Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proposed ending “birthright citizenship” for the children of illegal immigrants at a Monday press conference at a Texas border town.
DeSantis called for scrapping the long-standing immigration policy – which entitles any child born within U.S. borders to automatic citizenship, regardless of parental citizenship status – for children born to people who have come to the U.S. illegally.
“Birthright citizenship,” or “jus soli,” is considered by many to be protected under the 14th Amendment, which declares citizenship for “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”
The Supreme Court adjudicated on the issue of birthright citizenship in a landmark 1898 case United States v. Wong Kim Ark, where the defendant, born to Chinese parents residing in the U.S., went to visit his parents and was denied reentry to the U.S. on the grounds that he was not a citizen. The court ruled 6-2 that the defendant was a U.S. citizen, establishing that even children of non-citizens born in the U.S. are considered legal citizens.
DeSantis has made immigration a focus of his campaign and recently unveiled a “No Excuses” memo obtained by The Washington Examiner to crack down on illegal immigration in light of the Biden Administration’s current border crisis, and part of the candidate’s plan includes pushing for an end to what he describes as a “failed policy”: “DeSantis will take action to end the idea that children born to illegal aliens are entitled to birthright citizenship,” the memo reads, adding, “Dangling the prize of citizenship to the future offspring of illegal immigrants is a major driver of illegal migration.”
In the press conference, DeSantis said that, as president, he would work to “remove the incentives to come here illegally to begin with,” among them “birthright citizenship,” which he noted has been abused in its implementation.
“This idea that you can come across the border and two days later have a child, and somehow that’s an American citizen – that was not the original intention of the 14th Amendment,” he said.
Former President Donald Trump, who announced in late May that he would also seek to end automatic citizenship, had promised to restrict the policy in 2018 but never followed through with an executive order to implement it.
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) May 30, 2023
DeSantis’ announced proposal received criticism from Democrats, who hailed the proclamation as unconstitutional: Former Obama attorney Joyce Alene tweeted, “DeSantis is, apparently, unfamiliar with the Constitution (Many of the measures he proposes, reflected in this article, aren’t happening. But that won’t stop him from trying),” while Voto Latino, a nonprofit focused on getting “Latinx voters” to the polls, described the move as “dangerous and unhinged.”
In the press conference, DeSantis did not guarantee undoing the policy but said that, if elected, his administration would “take action to force a clarification” of the 14th Amendment from the courts as pertains to children of undocumented immigrants.