Is there a citizenship issue that needs to be settled when deciding about Ted Cruz’s run for the Presidency?
What does it mean to be a “Natural Born Citizen” and why should you care?
As to the latter question, you should care because that is one of the Constitutional requirements for a person seeking the office of the Presidency, and there has been significant discussion in recent years whether certain candidates meet that standard. As to the former, it depends upon who you ask, and which candidates they support.
The issue comes down to what “Natural Born Citizen” meant when the Founders included it in the Constitution, and whether subsequent acts of Congress have subtly changed the definition. There is a great deal of confusion—even within the law—where people mix the concepts of “natural born” and “naturalized”—one is a fact of birth, and the other is an act of law subsequent to, and/or apart from birth.
The main points which inform the definition include the geographical place of one’s birth, and the citizenship status or office (such as being an American diplomat) of one’s parents when born. Historical names such as Emmerich de Vattel, William Blackstone, and Edward Coke enter the discussion depending on which sources you consult, and there remains no consensus on the exact definition.
In the specific case of Senator Ted Cruz, this piece from the Heritage Foundation’s “Daily Signal” argues that Cruz is eligible based on the citizenship status of his mother. But a deeper study of the historical question leaves me with continuing doubts—a very significant problem for someone like Cruz who proclaims a sincere allegiance to the Constitution.
As a Constitution Society report summarizes:
A “natural-born citizen” is one who:
Is “natural-born”, that is, born on the soil of the country; but is “subject to the jurisdiction” of this country, which means 1.Does not have a parent who is a diplomat of a foreign country; 2.Does not have a parent who is a foreign invader, that is, someone who has entered without consent of authorities; 3.Does not have a parent who is an unassimilated indigene (“Indian not taxed”, but there no longer are any).
Their conclusion is that Mr. Cruz is not eligible because of the place of his birth. There is no question he is a citizen, but according to the legal and historical definition he is apparently not a “natural born citizen” and therefore ineligible to the Office of President.
I sincerely hope Mr. Cruz will at some point provide a thorough, substantive, and definitive refutation of the Constitution Society’s position if he continues his campaign. Otherwise, as much as some of us may appreciate him and his convictions, our own commitment to the Law and Constitutional governance prevents us–as a conviction of a sincere conscience—from voting for him.
To see Mark Horne’s differing perspective on the issue, go here.