Immigration Law

Experts: Repealing Birthright Citizenship 'Almost Impossible' and Counterproductive

"A policy paper released by 2016 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump this weekend has reopened a question in the immigration debate that some of Trump's fellow GOP candidates may want to avoid: Is it time to end birthright citizenship?

According to Trump, it is - and his plan promises to do so. ... 

Birthright citizenship comes from the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1868. It states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." It gave citizenship to former slaves and overruled the Supreme Court, which said in Dred Scott v. Sandford that slaves were not U.S. citizens.

Multiple immigration law professors interviewed by CBS News said ending birthright citizenship would involve passing an amendment to change the Constitution.

"It would require a vote of two thirds of both houses of Congress and then ratification by three fourths of the state legislatures so politically, I think that's almost impossible," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University Law School professor, told CBS News. "Some people believe that they could simply pass a statue to end birthright citizenship without having to amend the Constitution, but I think that most legal scholars believe that a constitutional amendment is required."

Hiroshi Motomura, who teaches immigration law and citizenship at the University of California-Los Angeles, told CBS News that ending birthright citizenship is "an overly simple solution for a really complex problem...with consequences that are going to be seriously negative consequences for this country. It would be much better to fix the immigration system." ... 

If Congress were to end birthright citizenship but not make an effort to remove immigrants in the U.S. illegally, their numbers would actually increase.

A 2010 study by the Migration Policy Institute found that the undocumented population would rise from its current level of about 11 million to 16 million by 2050 as families continued to expand, but with children not becoming American citizens. That number would be even higher if the government only allowed children who had two legal-status parents to become citizens.

Michael Fix, the president of the Migration Policy Institute and one of the study's co-authors, said it would also result in "an underachieving, unintegrated subpopulation" as more generations of children are born but unable to advance in society because of their legal status. ... 

Motomura, the UCLA professor, also argued that removing the possibility of citizenship for children born to undocumented parents will make it much less likely that they will assimilate because there will be less of an attachment to the country where they live.

"One of the biggest things that this country does to assimilate immigrants is that we offer them citizenship," he said. "The real consequences of this will be seen in 5 to 30 years when people grow up without a sense of belonging." " - Rebecca Kaplan, CBS News, Aug. 18, 2015.

- Prof. Stephen Yale-Loehr

- Prof. Hiroshi Motomura