I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Rep. Gerry Connolly over the years and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him use his sense of humor to drive home a point he’s trying to make. Today, he used it to respond to President Trump’s announcement that he wants to end birthright citizenship.
In case you missed it, President Trump conducted an interview with “Axios on HBO” and said he’s run the proposal by his counsel and now plans on issuing an Executive Order ending birthright citizenship. The President apparently previously believed he’d need an Act of Congress or more likely a Constitutional amendment to do so, but he now believes neither of those are necessary.
Interestingly, Trump stated part of his reasoning for moving forward with the order is a claim that the United States is the only country that allows birthright citizenship.
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States,” Trump falsely declared. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
This blatantly ignores the fact that Canada, Mexico, and at least 30 other countries actually give birthright citizenship. But since Trump has proven to have a very casual relationship with the truth, I wouldn’t expect him to actually let those pesky facts get in the way of his personal agenda.
Anyways, back to how Gerry Connolly used his humor to go after Trump. The five term Congressman sent a letter to Trump, which included a copy of the Constitution. Since Trump has an “aversion to reading,” according to Gerry, he went ahead and “highlighted the 14th amendment for [his] convenience.”
The 14th Amendment was enshrined in the Constitution shortly after the Civil War. It was passed with former slaves in mind (the Dred Scott decision had claimed slaves couldn’t possibly be citizens) and addressed citizenship and equal protection of the laws. While the amendment’s entire text has been used as the basis for several Supreme Court decisions to protect the rights of various Americans, the opening line of the amendment is what’s relevant to this discussion. It declares “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.”
In other words, it’s painfully obvious that President Trump cannot end birthright citizenship with a simple executive order. While ultraconservative groups like to rail against this during anti-immigrant rallies, the 14th Amendment is long established law that even people like Paul Ryan claim the President can’t change on his own. Rep. Connolly was therefore right to send him the humorous reminder that he has to follow the Constitution.