US President Donald Trump is determined to end citizenship rights for those born in the US. Picture: AFP/SAUL LOEB
US President Donald Trump is determined to end citizenship rights for those born in the US. Picture: AFP/SAUL LOEB

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump vowed to fight all the way to the US supreme court to end a constitutional guarantee of citizenship for people born on US soil, stepping up anti-immigrant rhetoric in the final stretch before key mid-term elections.

With control of the US congress at stake in the November 6 vote, Trump has sought to energise his base by portraying migrants as a national security threat. He has ordered thousands of US troops to the southern border and pressured Mexico to halt groups of migrants headed for the US border.

In the latest twist, he has vowed to use his presidential powers to eliminate the automatic right to citizenship of persons born in the US long guaranteed under the 14th amendment to the US constitution with few exceptions.

“So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other,” Trump tweeted. He said he would take the fight to the nation’s highest court. “This case will be settled by the United States Supreme Court!” 

Trump had said previously in an interview with Axios that he will end the blanket guarantee via an executive order — something not included in provisions for modifying the US constitution.

Trump asserted that birthright citizenship “is not covered by the 14th amendment because of the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’.”

This phrase has, traditionally, been interpreted as meaning people who have immunity from US law such as children of foreign diplomats born in the US.

Trump’s administration has detained thousands of illegal immigrants under US immigration law, under-cutting the argument that they do not fall under American legal jurisdiction. And the US supreme court has upheld the citizenship of children born in the US to immigrant parents.

Trump has also announced he is sending more than 5,000 soldiers to shore up the US-Mexico border, but they will likely be limited to support activities as they are legally barred from conducting law enforcement operations in the US.

And he has called on Mexico to halt groups of Central American migrants — which he has repeatedly vilified in campaign speeches — that are traveling through the country to reach the US.