by Ashley Lopez
In 1868, the 14thAmendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified with the intent to grant newly freed slaves the rights other citizens in the United States had. Since then, the 14thAmendment has been the foundation to many landmark Supreme Court decisions such as the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Educationthat set the precedent that “separate was not equal” and the 1973 Roe vs. Wadecase that established women’s legal right to abortions.
Recently, the 14thAmendment has been referenced in response to Donald Trump’s Axios’s interview- released October 30th– that incited heated discussion after proclaiming his intent to deny citizenship from children born to parents that had entered the country illegally. The first section of the amendment begins, “All persons bornor naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Though changing the Constitution is possible with a Congressional act, Trump’s claim that he has the authority to infringe upon natural-born citizenship with an executive order is inaccurate. Republican colleagues of Trump, most notably Paul Ryan, have conceded to the head of state’s faulty reasoning. “I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear,” stated Ryan just hours after the interview’s release. Despite Trump assuring he had “legal scholar’s” backing, the president has failed to further elaborate as to when or how progress will be made regarding his goal. Then what is the purpose of such contentious assertions?
The midterm elections were just a week away when the interview first surfaced. The true impact of Trump’s claim on the election cannot be quantitatively determined. Regardless, his words were meant to reintroduce the topic of immigration and, once again, highlight his promise of “Making America Great Again”. The Democratic party had still hoped for a “blue wave” on November 6thand though they failed to gain more Senate seats, their victory came by way of a House of Representative majority.
The interview reignited the fear many felt when Trump was first elected into presidency. However, much of this fear is due to misinformation. In a poll consisting of 254 South Gate students, 76% of which claimed to be a child or grandchild of an immigrant, it was found that 198 (78%) believed themselves sufficiently familiar with the 14thAmendment. Another 165 of those same 254 students (65%) did not believe Trump could achieve his goal of stripping away citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. Even so, it is important to note that a majority of those who responded with these answers were seniors, who are required by California curriculum to take a government and economic social studies class.