Tribal Disenrollment, Donald Trump, and the Anti-Birthright Citizenship Movement by Gabriel S. GalandaTweet
The Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that:
“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.”
In other words, if you are born in America, you are a citizen; American citizenship is a birthright.
What’s more, American citizenship can only be divested voluntarily. 8 U.S.C. § 1481. It cannot be undone by Congress. As the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear:
“The fourteenth amendment . . . has conferred no authority upon congress to restrict the effect of birth, declared by the constitution to constitute a sufficient and complete right to citizenship. United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 703 (1898).”
Like American birthright citizenship, American indigenous belonging, or citizenship, is also a birthright for many if not most American indigenous peoples. Article 9 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides that indigenous persons enjoy an inherent “right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned.”
Traditionally and customarily, and quite simply, if you are born to those who belong to an American indigenous community, you too belong there. In a word, kinship. Legally, many IRA tribal constitutions provide that if you are born to an “enrolled member” of such a community, you too belong there.
An article yesterday proclaims, “The GOP Wants to End Birthright Citizenship,” and explains:
“Remember when Republicans just wanted to undo the 20th century? . . . Now want to undo the 19th century too. This weekend, Donald Trump announced that he wants to end birthright citizenship—and Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, and Bobby Jindal have all rushed to second Trump’s call to repeal the 14th Amendment. Rick Santorum and Rand Paul had previously called for ending birthright citizenship; Chris Christie isn’t ready to end birthright citizenship, but he’s promised to “reexamine” it.”
This position of these fascists parallels that of tribal leaders who end the tribal citizenship of their own people.
But while the 14th Amendment citizenship right of every American will never be repealed or restricted–it just won’t, politically or legally–the birthright citizenship of droves of American indigenous peoples is being summarily extinguished, without any protection or recourse. In that respect, Indian Country is as insane as Donald Trump.
Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing partner of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe co-authored, “Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy.” He is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California.