Want the truth about trumped up questions about Ted Cruz’s citizenship? We got it!
Politicians love to attack on the basis of citizenship.
In 2008, former Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño reportedly was on the list of potential candidates considered for the Republican Party nomination for Vice President. Some people thought that Fortuño wouldn’t be eligible because he was born in Puerto Rico. Sarah Palin was chosen as VP running mate that year, but Fortuño was found fully qualified based on U.S. citizenship “at birth” in Puerto Rico as conferred by federal statute (8 U.S.C. 1402).
Ironically, if he had been on the ballot in 2008, as a U.S. citizen residing in Puerto Rico candidate Fortuño would not have been able to vote for himself, because the 3.5 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico do not have voting rights in federal elections.
Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico have full voting rights at both the Democratic and Republican party presidential nominating conventions, and each party holds presidential primaries in the territory, but people from Puerto Rico can only vote in presidential elections if they live in a state.
Here we go again!
Now, just as in 1880, 1964, 1968, 2008 and 2012, the question of the citizenship of a presidential candidate has come up in the 2016 presidential campaign.
This time its about Ted Cruz. Rival Donald Trump claimed that Cruz, who was born in Canada, is not a “natural born” citizen of the United States — a requirement for the office of president. We’ll let the voters decide whether Trump is the Republican nominee or his campaign goes down in history as a reality TV show campaign for the White House.
Either way, Trump’s claim is that Cruz has citizenship qualification issues Democrats can exploit if Cruz is the party’s candidate. He may be wrong on that: such attacks seem to help more than they hurt the candidate being attacked. Certainly, attacks on Obama’s citizenship that could not be proved on factual or legal grounds actually played well only with his opposition, and helped Obama rally supporters.
Even if Trump’s tactics works politically in Iowa or New Hampshire, Trump is too smart not to know that any insinuation by Democrats that Cruz does not qualify as “natural born” is not sustainable.
The truth about what “natural born citizen” means
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which is a federal statute enacted by Congress under Article I of the Constitution (that’s important, as you’ll see later on), says that a baby born to a U.S. citizen outside the U.S. is a U.S. citizen at birth.
Citizenship acquired at birth under federal statutory law constitutes “natural born citizen” status for purposes of qualification under Article II to serve as President or Vice President.
The 14th Amendment, from 1868, gives U.S. citizenship to everyone born in a state. That’s all it takes: be born in the U.S., and you are a U.S. citizen. Before 1868, citizenship at birth under a federal statute enacted under Article I (like the INA — remember?) was the only source of “natural born” citizenship.
Of course, the first generation of Presidents and Vice Presidents born before the U.S. Constitution took effect in 1789 obviously could not be natural born citizens of a country that did not exist.
But the for the first generation born after 1789, “natural born citizen” meant citizenship acquired under a federal statute rather than citizenship given directly by the U.S. Constitution.
At that time, a federal statute recognizing citizenship at birth was the ONLY way to qualify as a “natural born citizen” who could be sworn in as President.
Then came the first generation of Presidents and Vice Presidents born in a state of the union after the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868. They had constitutionally defined birthright citizenship that left no room for doubts about “natural born citizenship.”
Under the 14th Amendment, only those born in a state of the union have birthright citizenship as a constitutional right. Still, Congress still has the same power under Article I to grant citizenship “at birth” by statute to people who are not citizens because they were born in a state.
In more modern times, Congress has given citizenship “at birth” to children born outside the United States if their parents are U.S. citizens — a relief for vacationers and Americans working or studying abroad. They’ve also given citizenship “at birth” to children born in U.S. territorial possessions under U.S. sovereignty but not yet incorporated into the union and admitted as states — for example, Puerto Rico.
Legally, there is no difference between citizens who are born in a state and those who got citizenship at birth because of a federal statute like the INA.Love or hate Ted Cruz, he's as natural born as can be. Click To Tweet
Here are some other politicians whose citizenship was challenged:
- Chester Arthur, who might have been born in Canada (borders were uncertain then)
- Barry Goldwater, who was born in the Arizona Territory
- George Romney (Mitt’s dad), who was born in Mexico to parents who were citizens of the Utah Territory
- John McCain, who was born in Panama
- Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii two years after it became a state
None of these men lost out on the chance to become president because of their citizenship (though some lost their elections). We think Ted Cruz belongs on this list, too.
A lot of the questions raised about Ted Cruz are based on misunderstandings of the Constitution and federal citizenship law.
For example, for a child born outside the U.S. to U.S. citizens, it is irrelevant whether the child’s parents were born in the U.S. or not.
It also doesn’t matter whether those parents were also citizens of another nation. It doesn’t matter whether that citizenship was or could have been lost or taken away under foreign law for any reason, including the parent or child’s acquisition of U.S. citizenship.
The only requirements or conditions applicable or relevant are the laws of the United States.
Attacks on the citizenship of Cruz are just trumped up.