6 Women’s Reactions To Trump’s Proposed Birthright Executive Order That Show How This Rhetoric Affects Them

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On the morning of Oct. 30, President Donald Trump announced his plans to end birthright citizenship through an executive order in an interview with Axios. While the right to birthright citizenship — the idea that any person born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship — is enshrined in the Constitution, meaning any executive order or legislation would likely face a long legal battle, his claim enraged many citizens who view this proposed action as antithetical to the very foundation of the country. Bustle spoke with six women who became citizens through birthright regarding how they felt about this proposed executive order — and their comments show why this right is so important.

While children born to U.S. citizens are granted birthright citizenship through the 14th Amendment, President Trump’s comments are most appropriately viewed through the lens of his ongoing anti-immigrant rhetoric: “We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States ... with all of those benefits," he told Axios. (This claim is not true; over 30 other nations, mostly in North, Central, and South America, also grant birthright citizenship.) These comments run counter to the narrative that the United States is a “nation of immigrants” — a narrative that has historically excluded Native people in this country, but that, in its proffered openness to all, has become a defining aspect of what makes America great nonetheless.

These six women shared with Bustle how they reacted to this news, and what they want people who are not children of immigrants to know.

Debbie, 29

I was born 10 months after my parents arrived undocumented to the States. My parents were fleeing guerrilla warfare in El Salvador, exacerbated by the U.S. involvement that brought about “death squads” in their ill attempt to fight communism. I’m really lucky that my parents were able to become citizens. It took my mom about 25 years to be able to finally get everything in order. It was really difficult. We had to travel every week to immigration offices to do interviews. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity.

I wasn’t surprised [to hear about Trump's plan]. [...] I grew up in very rural, white town in what people call flyover [states]. The roots were there already. I could tell with comments people made as they got older. I grew up with some kids who as they got older, got this very racist, misinformed rhetoric. When Trump came about, it just seemed like the natural projection. This morning, I was initially like, I knew it.

I would like [people who aren't familiar with the experience of immigration] to know that all of their ideas of how immigrants are taking jobs [are] not the immigrant's fault. Even if that were true, that is your employer's fault. They take these immigrants as cheap labor, and they don’t care [...] about our well-being or about your well-being either. My parents paid taxes for years, but couldn’t use it for anything. If you’re not a citizen, you can’t get most of the things people believe immigrants can get.

I have hope in the younger generation, really. I think they’re way smarter and more flexible in your thinking than anyone gives them credit for. [...] I feel like the generation that is running the country right now — I don't know what they’re doing. Are they trying to just screw us over because their way of life is now invalid? But it doesn’t seem like they’re thinking ahead. Maybe it’s the fact that they know they don’t have long to live. They want to hold onto the power they have.

I think the younger generation still knows what compassion is. I’m just worried about how much they’re gonna have to do to repair all this crap, or all the work we’re going to have to do.

I grew up with my parents indoctrinating me with the idea that the American dream [...] is real. It’s not like just this thing that you say or hear. It’s for all of us. The fact that we can vote. That we can speak against our government and not get thrown in jail. [...] Taking [birthright citizenship] away, you’re taking away the most American thing. [...] It just goes against everything that the country was built on.

Iman Hariri-Kia, 23

I was born in [New York City] in 1995. Both my parents were Iranian immigrants, who had come to the states for university and stayed there after the Iranian revolution.

As a dual citizen, I have always been hyperaware of how I am seen by many in the United States (and especially in a post 9/11 NYC). That feeling has been exacerbated by several events, including Trump’s first [travel] ban. Today’s news further heightens that feeling: the knowledge that my identity, and those of other immigrants granted birthright, will forever be seen as divisive and split down the middle.

My family has done nothing but contribute to American society — my mother is an architect dedicated to bringing beauty and functionality into this world, and my father served the UN. I have grown up with the knowledge that I contain multitudes: I am an American, a New Yorker, and I come from a nation with a rich cultural history. This proposed legislation, as well as Trump’s rhetoric, undermines the very facets of my identity — along with that of many other immigrant children. It’s dehumanizing.

[That said], my friends, peers, family, and co-workers who are using their platforms to bring attention to marginalized voices and [...] move others [give me hope for the future]. That, and Nov. 6.

Melissa Lozada-Oliva, 25

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to two immigrant parents who hadn’t yet become citizens in 1992. They met in an ESL class. At the time, my older sister [...] was translating for my mom everywhere they went. My parents were assigned to work together and they fell in love and started a house-cleaning business.

I’ve tried so hard not to have reactions throughout this presidency. I thought in some way, it made me stronger. But literally this made me sick. My first thoughts were the same as a lot of thoughts that have occurred at the start of this administration. It’s just so deeply idiotic that it’s infuriating, so infuriating that it’s depressing, so depressing that it’s mind-numbing and I just don’t feel like doing anything anymore. I’m privileged in having been naturalized here. It honestly breaks my heart that children of the future won’t have the rights of an American citizen, that I potentially won’t be able to keep this right. It also just shows a deep disregard of the history of our country, how it was literally founded on stolen land, how nothing truly “belongs” to anybody, how these rules are the result of a tantrum of a person who lost their humanity because of the number of 0s in their bank account.

I want [people who aren't familiar with the process of immigration] to know that even if my parents came here in a “respectable way” [...] that no child of immigrants, no child who is an immigrant, has to prove their worth as a citizen. I hate the rhetoric of “working hard” as a measure of value. Fuck that. I deserve to have money to eat and not have to show the bags under my eyes to prove that I worked hard for it happen.

A part of me wants to say hope is for privileged white people and compartmentalization is for marginalized folk who have been going through this forever. But that’s bleak maybe? Anger makes me hopeful for the future honestly. Anger means people give a shit.

I am a proud child of immigrants who loved each other once and have sacrificed their dreams because they deeply loved me. Nationalism is toxic and the wrong way to move people. [...] The most radical thing we can do is be upset, to be kind, to vote if we have the privilege to. To create something that isn’t beautiful but true, and maybe to laugh with the someone we love.

Lidia, 28

I was born in 1990, in East Los Ángeles, California (a predominantly Mexican immigrant community) to Mexican immigrant parents, both of [whom] came to the United States with their families as children under the age of 10. By this time, my father gained citizenship and served in the military. My mother only had a green card. She earned naturalized citizenships while I was in high school.

Instantly [I was] terrified, but not in the least bit surprised. It was only time before I, a daughter of immigrants, became the target of this evil administration. My entire family has already been vilified. I was only next.

We are AMERICANS. My family doesn’t need to be comprised of small business owners, college-educated professionals, mothers and fathers to be deemed worthy of what this constitution promises. We are humans. Good humans.

To be perfectly honest, I go in cycles of feeling hopeful to hopeless about the future. In one sense, I am hopeful when I see young leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Make The Road Action organizers, and all first-generation folks who are celebrating their culture in public, without fear, and encouraging people to take action in their communities. There is passion in their eyes. I hope that never goes away. Because I can also feel helpless. I fear that these young leaders will not be able to effect change before the current people in power strip us from my basic human rights.

Tanya, 27

I was born in Los Angeles in 1991. Both of my parents were from Iran. My mom came to the United States when she was 19 to attend college because her older brother was already in the United States for school. Because there was an older male presence, she was allowed to go. My dad didn’t come to the United States until the close of the ‘70s, ’79 or ’80.

My mom came here on a student visa. That pretty much allowed her to work through her studies but once that was over, it was like the ’80s, so it was easier for her to get by without a visa, but she didn’t have a green card until she married my dad. Neither of them were citizens when they got married. My dad became a citizen when I was like one, and my mom didn’t become a citizen until I was about five or six. There was a period of time where my cousin and I were the only American citizens in the family.

Considering the amount of like pure b.s. that we’ve had to encounter with Trump’s stance on immigration, particularly with how he’s treated Iran, I’m exhausted. When I saw [the news], I just thought, of course he’s saying that. Obviously I was angry, but it’s like yelling at a brick wall. Nothing sways him — it just keeps getting worse.

It’s the same feeling I had when he implemented the travel ban, which directly affected my family. If something like [the travel ban] had been in place when I was born, I wouldn’t exist. Our entire lives would be different. It’s because of birthright that I was able to be the person I am today. It’s a sobering thought that your life wouldn’t exist except for something that the president is threatening to get rid of — with absolutely no basis.

I feel like [...] if you’re not a child of immigrants or an immigrant yourself, you can’t feel how terrifying this is in the same way. This is not another thing we should be brushing off as another stupid thing our president is saying. We need to understand this for what it is.

Isabella Gomez, 21

My parents were Venezuelan immigrants working at the time that they had me. My older sister was five at the time and had been born in Venezuela. Two months after I was born, we moved back home so my parents could raise us in our own culture — but then had to immigrate back to the United States in 2004 because of the political crisis in Venezuela.

Reading the news yesterday felt really, really personal to me because I’m the only one in my family who has birthright citizenship (my younger brother was born in Venezuela, like my sister). It took an enormous financial and emotional toll on my parents to apply and work with lawyers for their own citizenship as well as that of my siblings, and I’ve always wondered how much more difficult it could’ve been for us if they had to worry about me, too. It’s really upsetting to me that all of a sudden, this basic Constitutional right could be put on the line.

People who aren’t children of immigrants need to realize that the U.S. immigration system is broken and there is no clear or easy path to citizenship. By trying to take that away from people who were born here, you’re basically trying to invalidate their existence (kind of like what the government is already doing to Dreamers brought here as children). Trump’s claims that birthright citizenship costs our country billions of dollars is just flat-out incorrect. [This proposed executive order is] clearly about attacking immigrants, not protecting this country (which sees plenty of economic benefits from immigration).

What makes me hopeful for the future is seeing how many people are taking their anger and putting it towards community-focused action that doesn’t try to just work within the system we already have, but dismantle it and start a new one. Grassroots organizations are a huge part of that, but also people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been a huge source of hope for me this year as I finally get to see politicians who aren’t going to be making the same promises as always, but who are actually invested in the communities they represent.