The Nebulous Case Of The “Natural-Born Citizen”

1 Feb

What does “natural-born” really mean?

"Don says I could run for Canadian Prime Minister."
“Don says I could run for Canadian Prime Minister.”

Your latest educated opinion about Canadian-born, Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz’s eligibility for president should be as good as anyone’s. All we have heard from the experts is viewpoint, research, speculation, judgment, and theory. Most of the arguments are cleverly manipulated words to make a pro or con  point. Some of the dialogue sounds reasonable enough to consider. Most is conjecture, and too much is just “Oh, come on” ridiculous. There are even arguments for and against Cruz’s birth-rights based on British statutes and the relationship between the founding founders, and the British crown and its subjects. Just a tad archaic

All of it shows a desperate need to resolve the “natural-born” issue ASAP. In bureaucratic matters such as this one, likely involving the Supreme Court, that could be several years. Why not just give Senator Cruz a pass now and stop  wasting taxpayers’ money? Then, let’s get to the task of addressing and settling this issue before the 2020 election. Just in case.

Do not read that as an endorsement for Ted. Just recognize that this natural-born citizenship thing could go on for years at the expense of We, the people. Since Donald Trump first brought the issue to media attention, historians, constitutional lawyers, academics, logicians, language interpreters and psychics who can see into the past, have presented arguments ad nauseam and still cannot reach a solid conclusion.

The short answer as to whether or not Ted’s Canadian birthplace, his mother’s alleged U.S. citizenship, and his dual citizenship will impact his candidacy and appeal, is “Maybe.”

Mrs Cruz's birth certificate from Wilmington, DEThe Gospel According to the GOP

Sen. Rand Paul wants to “look into it.”  Trump initially called Cruz’s situation “precarious for the GOP,” then back-pedaled and announced that “Ted is OK to run.” But Trump continues to talk about Cruz’s ineligibility, recently labeling him as a “Canadian anchor baby” on his Trump TV special for vets. Trump concluded his diatribe with “I don’t know” as he does with almost every statement he makes. Sen. John McCain says Cruz’ eligibility should be investigated. Yet McCain was born in the Panama Canal zone, legally an unincorporated US territory. The Senate passed a resolution “declaring” him a natural born citizen to allow him to run for president in 2008.

You would think qualifications for the highest office in the land would be sacrosanct. No doubt about it. Written in stone and irrefutable. But at this point, no one OF ANY PARTY really seems to know for certain whether Cruz is or can be “cleared” for candidacy.

The Birther Thing From A Different View

To re-cap, Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada. His father was Cuban-born but his mother, Eleanor Elizabeth Darragh Wilson, of Irish Italian descent, was allegedly born in Wilmington, Delaware. Ironically, most mainstream journalists have questioned the absence of Mrs. Cruz’s birth certificate, saying no one has been able to verify its existence. But posted a reasonable facsimile shown above, claiming it was exclusive but insisting that it is legitimate. If the pressure intensifies for irrefutable proof of mom’s U. S. citizenship, Ted might face a wall miles higher than the one he wants to build.

ted-cruz CU accredited

The Cruz family lived in Canada but moved to Texas when Ted was four years old. As long as Cruz’s mother is an American citizen, or was one at a specific time, she counts as one the two parents needed to qualify Cruz as an American citizen. Still, the terminology in question is “citizen” versus “natural-born citizen.” It’s all up for interpretation and every authority involved has a different opinion.

But is it really that simple?

Yes, according to Mary Brigid McManamon, a constitutional law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School. She writes in Opinions for the Washington Post: “The concept of “natural born” comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous,” and she adds “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.” In an opposing opinion, Jonathan Adler makes a case  for the opposite theory.

What the Constitution says:

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.

Seems pretty cut and dry, right? U.S citizen, resident of the U.S. for 14 years and 35 years old. Bam! What else do you need to know? A lot, because this eligibility thing is not going away. and ultimately, it’s either a waste of time and money, or it is something to which we should devote some serious attention. McManamon, a legal historian, firmly believes “Congress simply does not have the power to convert someone born outside the United States into a natural-born citizen.

What “they” say

CRS (Congressional Research Service) , part of the Library of Congress under another name since 1914—is a conglomeration of legal, financial, policy analyst professional-types who pool their skills to “serve the legislative needs of Congress.” Think of them as the perpetual Congressional think tank. These authorities refer to the Constitution and then explain that there are exceptions. Quite a few, in fact. Even they can’t say what to say about Ted Cruz’s eligibility.

Hamilton, McCain, and Goldwater

Alexander_HamiltonFor some pundits, a precedent was established when Alexander Hamilton, born in the West Indies around 1755 (exact year unknown), made it to New York in 1773, but was still considered a British subject. The law was clear. It said the president had to be a natural born citizen. Hamilton was not. And if history is correct, he wasn’t interested in running anyway. But you know how rules are meant to be broken. So, because Hamilton had been a U.S. resident for approximately 15 years when the Constitution was adopted in 1788, historians argue that even he could have run legitimately. Interestingly, Hamilton wrote most of the The Federalist Papers, which remain the most important reference for Constitutional interpretation.

Fast forward to 1909 when Barry Goldwater was born in the territory of Arizona (three years before it became the 48th state). He was approved to run for president even though technically, Arizona was not a state at the time of his birth.

Barry Goldwater
Barry Goldwater

Other Theories  Researcher/reporter Robert Longley writes in that the Constitution “fails to expand on the exact definition of ‘natural born citizen’’ and that “the Supreme Court has never ruled on the meaning of …the requirement.” Super-conservative attorney, Publius Huldah (her pen name) argues that “None of our early presidents were natural born citizens, even though they were already born here. They were all born as subjects of the British crown. They became naturalized citizens with the [passage of] the Declaration of Independence. That is why it was necessary to provide a grandfather clause for them. But after our founding generation was gone, their successors were required to be born as citizens of the United States—not merely born here.”

Einer Elhauge, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, is convinced that Cruz is not eligible. The word “natural” is the big factor. Elhauge argues the phrase “natural born” has very specific meaning and does not refer to just anyone born a citizen. It is a qualifying term that means only some persons who are born as citizens may qualify—natural citizens, not natural-ized. “

All or nothing at all, with a BIG “but”

In a March, 2015 Harvard Law Review forum, the authors insist that “All sources routinely used to interpret the Constitution, confirm that the phrase “natural born Citizen” has a specific meaning: namely, someone who was a U.S. citizen at birth with no need to go through a naturalization proceeding at some later time.” BUT, the forum adds that “Congress has made equally clear from the time of the framing of the Constitution ….that, subject to certain residency requirements on the parents, someone born to a U.S. citizen parent generally becomes a U.S. citizen without regard to whether the birth takes place in Canada, the Canal Zone, or the continental United States.”


Andrea Mattar Canona, an attorney with the law firm of Bernstein Osberg-Braun in Miami, commenting on a recent Huffington Post article, points out that the year of birth is an important factor in making the case for the “natural-born” vernacular.

“In this case, Mr. Cruz was born in Canada to a U.S. mother and a Cuban father in 1970,” writes Canona.

So her premise includes the presumption that Cruz’ mother is or was an American citizen. Let’s go with that. Canona continues: “The law that applies to him [Cruz] states that if the Citizen [parent] had been physically present in [the] U.S. or its outlying possessions [for] 10 years, at least 5 of which were after age 14, the child is a U.S born citizen.

But wait. What happened to the term “natural born?” Are we OK with interchanging that with “U.S. born?” Because Huldah and Elhauge say no way. Eleanor Wilson Cruz would have to have lived in the U.S. for a total of at least 10 years. Of those ten, she must have lived at least five of them from age 14 up. But Canona adds it also depends on whether Eleanor renounced her U.S. Citizenship prior to Mr. Cruz’s birth. In that case, he would be a child from two alien parents and would not be a U.S. citizen by birth.”

At least, Canona’s approach leaves room for logical interpretation beyond the hard-core black and white picture that other experts try to paint. What if it does come down to credentials from Cruz’s mom?

I could be wrong but it all sounds like highly opinionated fecal matter with a sprinkling of racism to keep out the riff-raff. Today’s historians are trying to interpret and agree on what the founding fathers meant by the words “natural-born” and the founding founders are not around to explain their vernacular. As long as more than one decision-making body is granted the final say, we will continue this argument into the 22nd century.

Not to decide, is to decide.

On the Meaning of “Natural Born Citizen” html

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