Just before this year’s midterm elections, President Donald Trump announced his intention to sign an executive order repealing birthright citizenship for children of non-U.S. citizens. Since his announcement on Oct. 29, discussion has risen about what this executive order could mean for immigrant communities across the country.
“I think he is using [the announcement] as a tactic,” president of the Organization for Latino Expressions (OLE) Nancy Velazquez said. “He announced this right before midterms not only to get people scared but also to [appeal to] his supporters. I don’t think he is going to get anywhere with it.”
“The right for a child to be a citizen is not one that should be earned,” OLE vice president Inaya Molina said. “There is nothing a newborn child can do to prove themselves a citizen. A child born in the United States from immigrant parents should be treated just as any other child born here.”
Since President Trump’s announcement, popular Hispanic and immigrant news outlets have reported on a growing sense of fear among immigrant communities.
“I think what the president is doing is dangerous,” Velazquez said. “Parents of birthright citizens don’t know the constitution for the most part. They think that because he says it, he can do it. In most cases, that is not true, but they don’t know that.”
Velazquez is interning at an immigrant resource center, El Zocalo, in southwest Little Rock, which has exposed her to efforts directed towards helping immigrants put plans in place in case of emergency.
“One of the things the organization focuses on is power of attorney for the parents of U.S. citizens,” Velazquez said. “These documents give immigrants a plan in case they get deported or have to return to their home country.”
Immigrant communities and families are growing concerned for the potential uncertainties that could come from the repeal of birthright citizenship.
“One of my biggest worries is having my brother face the same uncertainties and fears I faced now that he is getting closer to the end of high school,” sophomore Victor Gomez said. “Throughout high school, I had no idea what college I would go to because I was undocumented. Because my brother is a citizen, he has the benefits that I did not. The executive order could potentially prevent him from obtaining any resources and put him in a situation like mine. I would hate to see him struggle because I know how difficult it would be for him and our parents.”
Gomez, who works closely with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), acknowledged that the executive order would decrease educational opportunities for immigrant children.
“Repealing birthright citizenship would be devastating to many immigrant families in the United States,” Gomez said. “This executive order would strip millions of children of their rights and of opportunities they can only obtain in this country. What President Trump is trying to do is not only unconstitutional but also inconsiderate of the future of many children and families living in the U.S.”
On campus, students of immigrant parents are working to share their experiences and represent their cultural backgrounds.
“The Organization for Latino Expressions has been a wonderful way for me to express my Latinx descent on a campus that is not very diverse,” Molina said. “It has been a way for me to show students on campus my roots and who I am in a positive way, which is in contrast to how the media has recently shown my country of Panama and other Latin American countries.”
President Trump’s executive order will likely never be signed. For now, students and citizens will continue discussing the future of immigrant communities in the country.
“Children are the future and will shape what this country becomes and what it stands for in the next century,” Gomez said. “Depriving them of their inevitable rights to citizenship is something that not only impacts them and their families but will also impact this nation as a whole.”