Friday, January 22, 2016

The Latest Birther Conspiracy by Caleb Wright

The bromance between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has, sadly, ended. Not only are the two candidates no longer fundraising with each other and calling each other sweet names like "Potential Vice President" and "Staunch Conservative," they are now openly attacking each other, especially in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. To each other, I'm sure these attacks are a devastating betrayal. To the outside observer, these attacks are increasingly hilarious.
One of the most interesting of these attacks might actually have merit. To understand it, let's look at Article Two of the Constitution:
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. 
Ted Cruz, despite his Texan constituency and Cuban roots, was born in Canada. Yes, the land of maple syrup, hockey, and communist health care. The natural born citizen clause is perhaps most interesting because it’s never been officially interpreted; no definition of “natural born citizen” was brought up in the Constitution, and the only court interpretations have been regarding citizens born in America to foreign parents.
Cruz’s situation is a bit different. At birth, he was an American citizen, thanks to his mother’s American citizenship, but was also a Canadian citizen (he has since renounced his Canadian citizenship). Based on the most common interpretation of the natural born citizen clause, he’s eligible to run, since he was a citizen “at birth.”
There have been a few, but not many, other times when the natural born citizen clause has been called into question. John McCain was born on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone to US parents, calling into question whether or not a military base counted as “in the United States,” and whether or not his citizenship from his parents would count. There’s only been one elected President where this was an actual issue. Chester A. Arthur, who became President in 1881 after James Garfield’s assassination, faced issues, according to J. Gordon Hylton of Marquette University Law School:
The controversy over Arthur’s citizenship status centers around the place of Arthur’s actual birth. By one account he was born in his family’s home in Franklin County, Vermont. If this was true, then he was clearly a natural born citizen. On the other hand, the competing account has it that he was born during his pregnant mother’s visit to her family’s home in Canada.
If the latter story is true, then Arthur was technically foreign-born, and in 1829, citizenship in such cases passed to the child only if the father was a United States citizen, and, of course, at this point Arthur’s father was still a citizen of the British Empire. 
Based on the interpretation Cruz is using, Arthur wouldn’t be eligible to run (much less become Vice President, since the same eligibility rules apply to both offices) since, at the time, citizenship couldn’t pass through the mother (thank you patriarchy). But, McCain would be eligible, and so would Barack Obama, even if he was born in Kenya, thanks to his mother’s citizenship.
But, most likely, this is a non-issue. Democrats and Republicans would much rather debate about other things that don’t matter instead of Constitutional law that doesn’t matter; back in 2008, the Senate passed a bipartisan, technically non-binding resolution declaring McCain eligible, just to get it out of the way. Citizenship will most likely not prevent Cruz from becoming President; his road to the White House has many obstacles, but the natural born citizen clause won’t be one of them.

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