When I was growing up, my American friends who were born overseas, to American parents, would lament that they were not eligible to become President of the United States. I can’t remember whether any of them actually wanted to become President but, in any case, It was common knowledge that they couldn’t. The same was said about people like John McEnroe, who was born to American parents, in Germany. Again, this was common knowledge.
Then, many years later, the whole Barrack Obama birther thing flared up – was he born in Hawaii or in Kenya? In the end, Obama released his birth certificate and as it turns out he was indeed born in Hawaii and has, therefore, always been eligible to become President of the United States.
Along comes Ted Cruz (By the way, strange character, always talks as if he is in a debate, even when he is not in a debate. I have known many many of his type as law school moot team coach – but that is a topic for another day.) Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada to an American mother (Whether his mother was registered as American, or whether she was registered as Canadian is the subject of some debate – but let us assume for arguments sake that she was American and registered as such). What most of the media seem to have forgotten what was common and accepted knowledge just a few years ago – indeed, what was the whole reason that Obama faced all the birther scrutiny.
It was never in dispute that Obama had an American mother, so how could Obama’s situation then be any different from Cruz’s now, even if Obama was born in Kenya? Of course, it would have been no different at all – the only real difference is that Obama was born in the United States and Cruz was not. I guess people can make up their own minds as to why Obama and Cruz seem to be treated differently by the MSM, especially since it is not in dispute that Cruz was born in another country. But whatever the reason, it is not the point here. The real issue is whether everyone who always knew that you had to be born in the United States to become President got it wrong?
The Constitution of the United States is 100% clear that they were not wrong, especially if the Constitution is read literally, which is the sort of reading that Ted Cruz himself advocates on a daily basis. The relevant section is Article II section 1:
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
Not only does this section tell us that an eligible person must be a “natural born Citizen” but it also tells us that a “natural born Citizen” is something distinct from a mere “Citizen”. We know this because this section gives mere Citizens who happened to be alive on September 17 1787, i.e. the day on which the Constitution was adopted, the right to become President. In other words, people who are Citizens but who were not alive on September 17 1787, are not eligible, unless, of course, they also happen to be natural born Citizens.
So what is the distinction between natural born Citizens and citizens? For this question too, the Constitution gives us an answer, in Article 1 section 8:
“The Congress shall have Power To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”
Thus, it was left to Congress to determine who was a Citizen (but not who was a natural born Citizen), which it did three years later in the Act to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.
“the children of citizens of the United States, born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, shall be considered as citizens of the United States”
It could not be any clearer, Children born outside of the United States to Citizens of the United States are considered as Citizens, not natural born Citizens.
What was common knowledge a few year ago when Obama ran for President remains a veritable fact today. Ted Cruz is a Citizen who was not alive on September 17 1787. Ted Cruz is not eligible to become President of the United States.