Donald Trump Image Credit: AFP

US President Donald Trump said he plans to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship for babies of non-immigrants and unauthorized immigrants born on US soil, according to excerpts of an interview released on Tuesday.

"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,"  Trump told 'Axios on HBO'  in the interview taped on Monday. "It's ridiculous. And it has to end."

Legal challenge

Trump asserted that it would not take a constitutional amendment to rescind birthright citizenship from some people born in the US, a stance that would undoubtedly draw a legal challenge should he proceed.

"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," he said.

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution spells out birthplace as an arbiter of citizenship: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

Trump's claim that the US is the only country that extends birthright citizenship is inaccurate. While the president is correct that European countries all require a period of residency before bestowing citizenship on those born to foreign parents, many countries in the Americas such as Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina have US-style birthright citizenship.

Trump's comments mark another escalation in his hard-line stance on immigration ahead of the November 6 midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

Public focus

Trump has been trying to restore the public focus on the issue after the events of the past week, which included the arrest of a Trump supporter in connection with mailing at least 13 suspected explosive devices to targets of the president's ire, including Democratic politicians and the cable network CNN. In another incident, a gunman on Saturday shot and killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in what authorities have said was a hate crime.

After an initial call for unity, Trump has increased his rhetoric against the media and undocumented immigrants, including a group of Central American migrants that is heading toward the US through Mexico. The Trump administration announced Monday that it would send about 5,200 troops to the southern border with Mexico by the end of the week to head off the migrants.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in September said the US planned to lower the cap on refugee admissions by a third to a record low 30,000 people for the coming fiscal year. Immediately after taking office in January 2017, Trump attempted to ban entrants from several Muslim nations, an effort that was turned down by the courts and forced his administration to rewrite the policy before the US Supreme Court in June upheld the latest iteration.