What checks and balances?

We often talk about the importance of social media and how it changes our lives in many ways. On Tuesday, we once again witnessed its power to bring us together in response to another of Donald Trump’s disillusioned designs.

By now you have definitely heard about his growing belief that the 14th Amendment of our Constitution could be swept away by an executive order. In short, Trump (falsely) believes that he could unilaterally end 150-year-old legislation that declares all the rights of citizenship for those born on American soil.

He is wrong. Not only is he wrong, but once again his rhetoric is actively dangerous and poorly veiled in an attempt to drum up more anti-immigration support in the midterm elections. As has been the case for much of Trump’s presidency, there is no real policy at play here, just another attempt to gaslight the public.

The 14th Amendment originated after the Civil War when it became clear that abolishing slavery through the 13th Amendment was not enough to ensure the rights of former slaves and others born in the U.S. It was not until 1898 that a case was brought to the Supreme Court to determine citizenship as a birthright for those born on American soil. Wong Kim Ark was born on American soil to Chinese immigrants before returning to China, and when denied reentry 24 years later, he took his case to the Supreme Court and the concept of birthright citizenship was established. However, the law itself has not been reexamined since then, exactly 120 years ago.

Jonah Baker | Argonaut

The law is obviously under different scrutiny now given the very different context of our country’s problems with immigration today, but the answer is not to allow the president to alter the law at will. Birthright citizenship is certainly an issue to consider, given how much has changed in 120 years. However, the majority of Americans are against its outright removal from our laws, with 60 percent of respondents in a 2015 Pew Research study opposing an end to the concept.

Trump either understands the limitations of the presidency and is counting on his base to react with renewed vigor, or he is actually disillusioned enough to think that he can wipe entire amendments from our Constitution without any sort of check on his power.

Had he taken even the most bare-bones American government class in high school, Trump would know that immense changes to our country’s highest laws would have to come from the legislative branch. Members of that legislative branch are of course falling in line behind their president, with Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeting that he has legislation in the works similar to the proposed executive order. The growing power of the executive order is terrifying enough, but it does not yet allow the kind of disastrous action that Trump is proposing.

This is just the most recent example of our president using a very narrow understanding of our news, laws and public to fearmonger in the most vital days leading up to midterm elections.

The issue of birthright citizenship deserves speculation in our tense immigration climate, but absolutely not under the stewardship of some of our most volatile politicians ever. It is preposterous that it has to be said, but we have to have a better idea of how our government works than our sitting president do. Otherwise, the truly dangerous fake news will continue to cascade down from the top.

Jonah Baker can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu


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