Local non-profit calls birthright citizenship debate ‘bullying tactic’

Published: Oct. 31, 2018 at 4:27 PM CDT
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Concern over President Trump’s support of ending birthright citizenship continues among families in Northeast Wisconsin.

The rhetoric adds another level of fear for U.S. citizens born to immigrants; however, legal experts question if birthright citizenship can be ended by executive order.

Located in downtown Green Bay, Casa ALBA Melanie provides support to the local Hispanic community.

“I think we have to realize that a lot of the Hispanic people and Hispanic immigrants are at this time, as they were in the past, they really are very fearful,” said Father Ken DeGroot, co-founder of Casa ALBA Melanie.

DeGroot says President Trump’s support of changing the Fourteenth Amendment and ending citizenship for people born to immigrants and non-citizens in the United States is adding to that fear.

“This is a tactic trying to divide the people, make them fearful,” said DeGroot.

“I have to believe at the end of the day that even the President and his counsel don't really believe that an executive order can change centuries of practice if not clear constitutional language,” said Geoffrey Lacy, an attorney with Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy, s.c.

Lacy says the United States Constitution gives absolute authority to Congress on matters of immigration and naturalization. Therefore, he says an executive order cannot take away birthright citizenship.

“At best, it's a question of interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said Lacy. “What does the clause ‘in subject of the United States and jurisdiction thereof,’ I think it says, what does that mean? Is that some qualifier of birth right citizenship?”

Lacy believes President Trump’s statement is nothing more than another use of immigration as a way to energize supporters.

Those at Casa ALBA Melanie remind lawmakers of the people who stand to potentially lose their identities.

“We're better than that,” said DeGroot. “This country has always been better than that.”

Lacy says this is the first time that birthright citizenship in the United States has been considered debatable or subject to debate. He says there have been no United States Supreme Court decisions or congressional action on the issue.