His comments led to cheers from immigration hardliners, outrage from his Democratic critics and a few notable rebukes from senior Republicans in Congress who usually stand behind him.
The timing of the proposal dovetails with the President’s broader efforts to make the midterm election about illegal immigration, a topic that animates his base. Trump and his allies tie birthright citizenship to the broader effort to curtail illegal immigration.
Beyond the impassioned political debate, here are some numbers to know that add context and explain the broader trends that are going on.
How many children are here?
About 55% of those children live with one undocumented parent or two undocumented parents. The remaining 45% live with one undocumented parent and another who is here legally.
These 4 million children represent a large cohort in this category, which is sometimes, including by the President, pejoratively called “anchor babies.” But it’s important to remember that people who are here legally — on work visas, for instance — sometimes give birth to kids on US soil.
It is actually slowing down
What’s often lost in the political debate is that illegal immigration to the US is on the decline. The number of undocumented immigrants in the US peaked during the mid-2000s and has continued falling.
“This trend matches a number of other trends that we’ve seen among unauthorized immigrants,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of global migration and demography research at the Pew Research Center. “Generally speaking, that population has been in decline.”
Repeal creates new issues
There is another wrinkle: undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States will continue to have babies, even if birthright citizenship goes away. Instead of becoming citizens, those kids will be undocumented, even without crossing any borders.
“Those kids would have no pathway to legal citizenship, and they would accumulate over time,” said Michael Fix, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington. “And there’s a share of them who will have kids of their own, and they’ll become undocumented immigrants as well.”
As non-citizens, these 4.7 million people would stop receiving government benefits like Medicaid and in-state tuition at public universities. But Fix pointed out that they also would be forced into the “underground economy” which doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests.
Most Americans oppose repeal
Birthright citizenship hasn’t made such a splash since fall 2015, when the topic became a flashpoint in the Republican presidential primaries.
Both polls found a partisan split. Democrats and independents support birthright citizenship, while slim majorities of Republicans oppose it. This helps explain why Trump raised the issue during the GOP primaries and revived it this week, as he rallies his base ahead of the midterms.