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Eliminating Birthright Citizenship: A Dramatic New Step

President Trump at a White House event, August 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: President Trump wants to eliminate birthright citizenship through an executive order, a move that is certain to face a legal challenge; Julia Ioffe says something awful, continuing a long pattern; and the Energy Information Administration unveils some new data that should have environmentalists cheering . . . but probably won’t.

A Week Before Election Day, a Birthright-Citizenship Debate Rises

Axios reports: “President Trump plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens born on U.S. soil, he said yesterday in an exclusive interview for ‘Axios on HBO,’ a new four-part documentary news series debuting on HBO.”

Here’s the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

All persons 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

At first glance, the amendment’s language appears straightforward: All persons born in the United States are citizens — leading to the conclusion that if Trump and his allies want to change birthright citizenship, they’re going to have to amend the Constitution.

(We haven’t changed the Constitution since 1992, when the country barred Congress from granting pay raises to themselves in the current session; all raises must take effect in the following session. We on the right get justifiably angry when gun-control advocates choose to ignore the Second Amendment instead of trying to repeal or edit it. Why not set the proper example and make a national effort to amend the Constitution to limit birthright citizenship? Just think of how much this would educate the country. Yes, amending the Constitution is difficult and it’s supposed to be: It requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then it has to be ratified by three-quarters of the states — 38 out of 50. But if we don’t demonstrate that the plain text of the Constitution must be respected, who will?)

But some constitutional scholars argue that the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” would exclude illegal immigrants. After all, they’re not subject to our jurisdiction, because they’re not in the country legally. At the time of the adoption and since, there has been broad legal and political consensus that the 14th Amendment excluded some small groups in particular circumstances. Peter H. Schuck and Rogers M. Smith write, “Everyone agrees that ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude the children of foreign diplomats, occupying enemy armies, and children born to foreigners while on foreign vessels in U.S. waters — even though they are then literally subject to our jurisdiction. Everyone also agrees that the 14th Amendment’s framers intended to exclude tribal Native Americans” who were classified as “domestic dependent nations” by the Supreme Court in 1831.

Michael Anton, the most outspoken advocate for ending birthright citizenship, argued that the birthright-citizenship policy in place since the 1860s is based on a misreading of the amendment, and that it was never meant to apply to the children of those in the country illegally. He contends that any fair-minded judge would have to concede that U.S. policy has been misinterpreting and misapplying the amendment all along.

He may get that assessment from the Supremes soon. An effort to overturn more than a century of precedent with an executive order is going to face an instant legal challenge — some group is probably writing up the request for a preliminary injunction as we speak. But who knows if this Supreme Court, even with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on it, will approve of a sweeping change to longstanding policy done by executive order. The Supreme Court has upheld the executive branch having wide latitude on who to allow into the country, but denying citizenship to children born here would be a dramatic new step.

This Isn’t Ioffe’s First Gaffe

GQ correspondent Julia Ioffe on CNN yesterday: “I think this president, one of the things that he really launched his presidential run on is talking about Islamic radicalization. And this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did.”

(For perspective, estimates of ISIS forces at their apex ranged from 9,000 to 200,000.)

Ioffe later apologized.

After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Ioffe claimed “this president makes this possible” and contended that Jews who voted for Trump “have some thinking to do.” (In 2009, an 88-year-old white supremacist shot at the U.S. Holocaust museum, killing one person and injuring another. In 2014, there were two shootings at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement community in Overland Park, Kan., leaving three dead. Did the president at that time “make those possible”?)

Previously, Ioffe contended that a “silent majority” of Trump supporters are “okay with racism and anti-Semitism.”

She once asked the Trump organization in a list of written inquiries, “Was there ever a time when Donald Trump Jr. felt any oedipal impulses?”

After the appointment of three retired generals, Ioffe said the Trump administration should be called a “junta.”

She contended that Republican animosity towards Susan Rice is driven by racism.

She suggested that President Trump was having sexual relations with his daughter, leading to her dismissal from Politico.

She refers to the attorney general as “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.” While this is indeed the attorney general’s middle name, use of all three names is an attempt to play into negative stereotypes of the South. The press was rightly wary about those who consistently referred to the previous president with all three names — “Barack Hussein Obama.”

Some of us remember back in 2013, when Ioffe, then writing for The New Republic, suggested President Obama should deal with congressional Republicans the way Boris Yeltsin did, by dissolving parliament and then using military forces to shell the Russian parliament building when they refused to leave.

In other words . . . how many awful things do you have to say before the CNN bookers say, “Hey, let’s leave Julia off the panel?”

Who Has Eliminated Carbon Emissions by 28 Percent Since 2005? You Did!

News from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that the environmentalists should celebrate . . . but will probably ignore:

U.S. electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) have declined 28% since 2005 because of slower electricity demand growth and changes in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity. EIA has calculated that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector totaled 1,744 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017, the lowest level since 1987.

Increases in electricity generation from noncarbon power sources since 2005 also had an effect on emissions from power generation. This growth has been driven largely by state policies and federal tax incentives that encouraged adoption of renewables. In 2005, noncarbon sources accounted for 28% of the U.S. electricity mix. By 2017, that share had grown to 38%. Almost all of this growth was in renewables, including wind and solar, as shares for other noncarbon sources such as nuclear and hydroelectricity remained relatively flat.

The EIA also reports that “U.S. electricity demand has decreased in 6 of the past 10 years, as industrial demand has declined and residential and commercial demand has remained relatively flat.” This has happened as the U.S. population has increased by 21 million people in the past decade.

So why won’t the environmentalists be touting this news? Because they want policy changes, and it’s hard to build momentum for policy changes if the news is good. If carbon emissions are going down because of market forces, consumer choices, and technological development, then there’s no need to force additional changes in people’s behavior through the law. The environmental movement needs you to be worried about your children’s future, because otherwise, you’ll turn your attention to other, more pressing problems.

ADDENDA: Thanks to all who have donated to the current webathon. One of my favorite readers wrote in, pointing out that when she discusses National Review, her friends think that we’re an institution rolling in money. The magazine always looks nice and glossy on the newsstand or in the bookstore, our staff is dressed in suits when you see us on television, and of course, William F. Buckley was debonair sophistication personified.

The suits can run through the numbers in more detail than I can, but you don’t create a political magazine to make a fortune. A lot of traditional magazine advertisers are scared of being associated with anything too controversial. Companies’ interest in web advertising is growing, but slowly. Subscriptions help but are never enough. NR makes some money on the cruises. But we’ve always run on donations from readers — from the beginning. We’ve never been part of a larger conglomerate, never had a billionaire backing us as a hobby. It’s always been the slow accumulation of all of those small donations from readers who are simply the best.

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