On 30 October 2018, President Donald Trump asserted that he planned to sign an executive order to revoke birthright citizenship, the principle holding that all persons born in America are U.S. citizens, even if their parents are not.
While politicians and legal scholars weighed in about the constitutionality of such an executive order, some commenters on social media were more concerned with how the renouncing of birthright citizenship would have affected President Trump’s own family.
One Twitter user shared a “fun fact” claiming that Barron Trump, the son of Donald and Melania Trump, was a U.S. citizen only by virtue of the very constitutional principle his father wanted to eliminate:
Fun fact: Barron Trump was born in March 2006 and Melania wasn't a legal citizen until July 2006.
— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_) October 30, 2018
But this “fact” wasn’t “fun,” nor was it a fact at all. Although the referenced dates were accurate — Barron Trump was born in March 2006, and his mother Melania, who came to the United States from Slovenia in 1996, didn’t become a United States citizen until four months later — the principle of birthright citizenship was misapplied to Barron Trump.
Birthright citizenship holds that any child born on United States soil, regardless of the nationalities of that child’s parents, becomes a U.S. citizen at birth. This constitutional principle stems from the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868, a few years after the end of the Civil War:
The 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War so that recently-freed slaves could become citizens.
“All person 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,” the Amendment reads.
Birthright citizenship, or jus soli, a legal term that means “right of the soil,” is the right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, and upheld by the Supreme Court, that says anyone born on U.S soil is automatically a citizen.
However, the 14 Amendment isn’t the only mechanism under which someone born in America to parents who are not both U.S. citizens may be considered a U.S. citizen from birth. Although Barron Trump’s mother Melania may not have been a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth, his father Donald certainly was. And according to current U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization laws, a child born outside the U.S. “acquires citizenship at birth if at the time of birth one parent is a foreign national and the other parent is a U.S. citizen,” and “the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States for at least 5 years, including at least 2 years after 14 years of age.” Barron’s mother was a foreign national, and his father was a U.S. citizen who had lived in the United States for more than five years, so Barron would have become a U.S. citizen at birth even if he had not been born in the United States.
Regardless of his mother’s immigration status (or the existence of the 14th amendment), Barron Trump is, and always has been, a U.S. citizen. This same argument applies to Donald Trump’s other children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, who were also born before Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s first wife, became an American citizen.
U.C. Citizen and Immigration Services. “Citizenship Through Parents.”
Retrieved 3 November 2018.
Haslett, Cheyenne. “What You Need to Know About Birthright Citizenship and the 14th Amendment.”
ABC News. 30 October 2018.
Jamieson, Amber. “Melania Trump Denies Working Unlawfully as Model in US on Improper Visa.”
The Guardian. 5 August 2016.
Jordan, Mary. “Questions Linger About How Melania Trump, A Slovenian Model, Scored ‘The Einstein Visa.'”
The Washington Post. 1 March 2018.
Swan, Jonathan. “Exclusive: Trump Targeting Birthright Citizenship with Executive Order.”
Axios. 30 October 2018.
Cevallos, Danny. “No, Mr. President, An Executive Order Can’t Change the Constitution. Here’s Why.”
NBC News. 1 November 2018.