Donald Trump would exclude children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States from birthright citizenship because the United States is the only country “stupid enough” to have such a policy.
The 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner recently released an immigration plan that includes deporting the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and ending birthright citizenship, a guarantee in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that any child born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship, including children of foreign-born parents.
“The Fourteenth Amendment — I was right on it. You can do something with it, and you can do something fast,” Trump said in front of thousands of people at a rally in Mobile, Alabama on Friday night. “In the case of other countries, including Mexico, they don’t do that. It doesn’t work that way… We’re the only place just about that’s stupid enough to do it.”
But the United States is not alone in conferring automatic citizenship: it is among about 33 countries that provides jus soli, or right of the soil, the Latin term for granting automatic citizenship to anyone born in a territory or country, including children of undocumented immigrants. In North America, Canada also provides automatic citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants, the immigration-restrictionist organization Center for Immigration Studies noted in 2010. Numerous South American countries also grant unconditional birthright citizenship for babies born in their countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil.
A growing number of Republican presidential candidates have also openly questioned whether to deny citizenship benefits to children of immigrant parents. But had the U.S. previously taken such a harsh stance to immigration policy, it’s likely that some presidential candidates’ own families could be in jeopardy. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) opposes birthright citizenship, but his foreign-born parents came to the United States and didn’t become citizens until well after he was born. Ben Carson opposes birthright citizenship, but the 14th Amendment granted full citizenship to former slaves and their descendants, which would have impacted some of Carson’s maternal ancestors.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was born in Canada, but it’s unclear whether he could also be defined as a “natural born citizen.” Because Cruz has an American mother, he gained her citizenship at birth; his father didn’t become a citizen until 2005.
One big issue with a repeal of the 14th Amendment is that it would make America’s undocumented population much bigger. A 2010 Migration Policy Institute study found that eliminating citizenship for every child with at least one undocumented parent would swell the undocumented population from its current 11 million population to 24 million by 2050.