Recently, Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy LAW ’13 has been making headlines for his position on birthright citizenship or, more accurately, his call to end it. Though his claims are as unreasonable as they are unconstitutional, and affect countless rightful citizens in the United States, I am specifically concerned for the future of Puerto Ricans if he continues to promote this dangerous ideology.

Birthright citizenship, a policy defended by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, is at the very center of American principles. Ramaswamy claims that a child born in the United States whose parents immigrated illegally should not be beneficiaries of birthright citizenship and should return to their country of origin along with their parents. Ramaswamy takes this unconstitutional proposal one step further, stating to CNN that even sixth generation Americans shouldn’t enjoy the privilege of citizenship or voting unless earned through the passing of a civics test or military service at 18-years of age. 

Ramswamy’s intentions stem from the belief that most Americans don’t appreciate the freedoms that come with being an U.S. citizen. His plan, however, wouldn’t amend this way of thinking, but put intense pressure on households to access rights that should be granted to them as members of American society. Indeed, he disregards those who might not have the time to study for an examination as they juggle school, a job, or aid their parents in day-to-day household chores. Rather than opting to expand curriculums to include and improve classes that cover civics, Ramaswamy leaves the responsibility completely on the student, stripping their constitutional right to citizenship if they do not pass. Hence, 18-year-old high school students who don’t pass the test and are on the verge of attending college or joining the workforce are forced to either enlist in the military or live without equal rights. 

Additionally, Ramaswamy’s proposal implies a tiered citizenship system. As a Puerto Rican, I can’t help but notice the immediate red flags that arise, specifically considering the historic treatment of Puerto Ricans as second-class citizens. Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the U.S. presidential election, though we are just as directly affected by U.S. government policies as continental U.S. citizens. In a recent example, the Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that Puerto Ricans don’t qualify for Supplemental Security Income, a safety-net program that provides cash assistance to older, disabled or blind Americans who have very low incomes. Would Raaswamy’s system exclude continental U.S. citizens from programs like these? What does that mean for Puerto Rican’s already subpar representation as U.S. citizens? 

It is important to note how these policies aren’t likely to be enacted — at least not as efficiently as Ramaswamy hopes. However, it is troubling that a candidate that is showing such rapid increase in the polls is able to present such extreme, anti-American ideals. Ramaswamy himself is a child of immigrants and though his mother is a lawful citizen, his father is not, making Ramaswamy a beneficiary of birthright citizenship. From this standpoint, it seems as though he is not interested in fostering pro-American ideals as president, but rather minimizing the rights of others on the continent, the same rights that allow him to run for president in the first place. 

Though I can understand the logic behind American youth civics education, it must not come at the expense of the very ideals that education is meant to instill. There are better ways to tackle the issues Ramaswamy is observing, but creating further divisions among Americans doesn’t begin to solve any of them. In his sweeping initiative to outright dismantle birthright citizenship, Ramaswamy goes against the very ideals that founded America while also calling into question what society will look like for those who do not have the resources to earn their citizenship, or, in the case of Puerto Ricans, are already treated as second-class in the eyes of the law. 

MARIA CESTERO is a first-year in Silliman College. Contact her