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President Donald Trump’s assertion that the U.S. “citizen by birth” tradition can be changed by executive order rather than constitutional amendment or legislative act has set off a wave of legal analysis by scholars and pundits scrambling to piece together the legal basis for this existential principle of U.S. individual rights.

The president’s assertion that he can, and will, disavow the ingrained U.S. cultural tradition (as well as legal mandate) that birth on U.S. soil renders citizen stature, with only a few historic exceptions, deserves careful analysis, if only because the birthright of citizenship has been so sacred to Americans across the political spectrum.

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