By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement to prepare an executive order to end “birthright citizenship” in the United States came in an interview with the online news site Axios.

“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 for 85 years with all of those benefits,” Trump said. “It’s ridiculous. Ridiculous. And it has to end.”

The head of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota says more than 30 countries, including Canada and Mexico, have birthright citizen laws — and he says the president’s plan is not legal.

“Absolutely not. He can sign it, he will be challenged in court and he will lose,” John Keller from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota said.

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution passed in 1868, giving citizenship to newly freed slaves after the Civil War.

Legal experts say the president cannot change it with the stroke of a pen — and political analysts question the timing.

In Minnesota, illegal immigration is a top-priority issue for Republicans. The president’s remarks came exactly one week before the election.

“Of course there is a connection between President Trump’s announcement and the election that is in a week. Immigration is really an issue that really motivated some voters to support Trump in 2016,” Kathryn Pearson, associate professor at the University of Minnesota, said.

Politics or not, immigration lawyers say no president can unilaterally end citizenship rights for children of non-citizens who are born on U.S. soil.

“The very words of the 14th Amendment make it clear that people born here are citizens,” Pearson said.

Pat Kessler