Legal expert: Trump's birthright citizenship plans 'blatantly unconstitutional'

President Trump sparked new controversy Tuesday when he announced plans to end birthright citizenship, even though that right is protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Speaking to Axios on HBO, President Trump said he planned to issue an executive order to end the automatic right of citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil to non-citizen parents. He said the executive order is “in the process.” 

The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868 to grant citizenship to former slaves and it guarantees citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the United States. Trump’s announcement comes one week before the mid-term elections and as the migrant caravan makes its way from Central America to the Southern U.S. border.

Aarti Kohli, Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus, said she was not surprised to hear Trump’s plan. She said an executive order to end birthright citizenship would be blatantly unconstitutional. 

“This president has been attacking immigrants left and right,” she said. 

Kohli points to the case of Wong Kim Ark vs. United States in 1898. She said Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco to non-citizen Chinese parents, who had permanent residency in the U.S., before the Chinese Exclusion Act. The act prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers. Following a visit to China as an adult, Wong Kim Ark was prevented from re-entering the U.S. by port officials who claimed he was not a citizen.

“His case went up to the Supreme Court said, ‘Actually, no. We passed the 14th Amendment and Wong Kim Ark is a U.S. citizen because he was born in the United States’,” she said.

Senior Immigration Attorney Matthew Weisner with Carecen SF, said if Trump tried to issue an executive order, it would immediately be challenged in the courts.

“I think president Trump should enroll in a high school civics class because the 14th Amendment is clear that all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction are citizens of the United States and he cannot overturn that by executive order,” Weisner said.

Former Chair of the California Republican Party, attorney and historian Tom Del Beccaro, said he believes Trump may have the power to make a change through executive order, depending on the order.

In a statement by text, Del Beccaro said, “For instance, if the president's order is for a short period of time and relates to a particular crisis, it likely would be upheld by the Supreme Court, especially since Congress has not passed a law governing the issue."

Vice President Mike Pence said the Supreme Court has never ruled on the language of the 14th Amendment as it applies specifically to undocumented immigrants. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said he will introduce legislation to end birthright citizenship after the mid-term elections.