It comes as no surprise that Trump revealed on Tuesday that he wanted to end Birthright Citizenship as promised during his 2016 Presidential Campaign; however, what surprises me instead is that 30% of Americans agree with him. As a daughter of two immigrants that are a part of the eleven million undocumented in this country, I and the 4.7 million children under eighteen who would be most affected by these measures if they were to become a reality, cannot help but feel an intense fury and fear towards this policy. My parents, like many others, came to the United States not for themselves but for the generations to come, and when someone in a position of power like president or senator or governor calls them “aliens” as if they are so foreign they aren’t the same species, builds up walls as if they are animals that need to be kept out, this not only degrades their humanity, but it degrades their dream. This invoking of fear and display of racism is yet another reason why we must use our voices to speak for those who cannot because they are afraid of deportation, for those who cannot because they are too young to understand that in the United States you’re treated as an “other” if you’re not white, for those who cannot because they have already been sent home or locked in cages or had their rights stripped of them.
Birthright Citizenship is “protected” by the Fourteenth Amendment, stating:
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.
This goes way back to when the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution which, though specifying it was “for the people,” apparently did not include slaves until 1868, when this amendment was adopted in reference to the children of slaves now being granted citizenship. It was later revisited in 1898 during the case of the US vs Wong Kim Ark, making it all the way to the Supreme Court where it established the precedent that any child of non-diplomats and immigrants born on American Soil had acquired Birthright Citizenship. There is debate among scholars of the legality of this Supreme Court decision, some arguing that it doesn’t refer to the children of undocumented immigrants and some stating that it protects everyone. Yet the clause, ‘subject to jurisdiction thereof’ implies that there is wiggle room for a Constitutional Amendment to change, but even that is difficult.
Donald Trump said he would issue an executive order to ‘bypass’ the Amendment, but that legally is not feasible. Most likely, the executive order would be blocked by a judge because what Trump currently is proposing violates the Constitution. To pass a law, he would need to propose it to Congress and pass with a ⅔ majority—a difficult feat even with a Republican majority house, and as midterms approach, the possibility of the House or Senate changing in majority is a roaming possibility. Moreover, revising or abolishing an amendment is an immensely difficult process and is the decision of the Supreme Court not the President.
Although Trump’s Birthright plan would meet incredible complications before passing through the other two branches of power, it is not impossible. The implications of this for not only people like me—who would become ineligible for FAFSA and most Federal Aid Programs and who would struggle to get a job as I don’t qualify for the DREAM ACT under its guidelines—but for people like my parents, whose dream and hardship and sacrifice would be invalidated if this were to pass, are overwhelming. The scariest part is that this is not just a reality I am being forced to face. Instead, thousands of teens who would face the same consequences, if our citizenship were to be revoked, now need to fear for our place in this nation.
People like my brother who, under medical terms, have a pre-existing condition (he is autistic), would no longer have valid insurance because you need a Social Security Number for that. Getting therapy without this benefit would be a significant financial hardship on my family and my brother would lose what has been our saving grace for the past eleven years since his diagnose.
It’s not only the ‘what if’ situations that make this all the more significant for my family but the social and political implications already in motion. Many consider this a political tactic, used by Trump to stir those who are xenophobic or white supremacists to vote for midterm elections and keep the Republican majority. Politically, Trump is appealing to his voter base so he can maintain his majority and be able to theoretically pass the claims he’s making.
Yet, most importantly is how other people react to these things said by our President. While we have been blessed with overwhelmingly large amounts of support from our allies and people who sympathize and want to understand and help minorities—specifically undocumented immigrants who are a largely stigmatized and threatened community at the moment—it is still hard to escape the assumptions of who you are and what your legal status is. I am now being called words that I haven’t even heard before directed towards and degrading me and my family. I am now facing this immense societal and political burden, all because of one man’s decision.
“Eleven million immigrants who live in the shadows,” was a common phrase I heard growing up, but it could not be further from the truth. These people are our neighbors, our friends, my parents; they’re what really makes America great. Being exploited, cast aside, and deported by the government does not make them a part of ‘America’s Shadow’. These people who had ‘anchor babies’ or died trying to come and build a better life are not part of America’s Shadow either. They are not “illegal.” They are not “dirty.” They are not “lazy.” They are people who have sacrificed their lives to give something better to their children, to their families.
Time and time again, people have torn us and every other minority community down, and the newest threat is to my Birthright Citizenship. I find the idea that my being a citizen, born to undocumented parents, invokes fear and disagreement and anger in the thirty percent of the population who want to send me away utterly amazing. And I flourish in their fear, because it empowers my voice to speak my truth, my parents’ truth, and the truth of the 11 million that have been silent for so long. Moments like these are when I realize that, despite having the privilege to be born here, I have to fight every single day to stay.