Monday, March 23, 2015

Can Ted Cruz run for president if he was born in Canada?

Today Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, is announcing that he is running.   

Ted Cruz  whose full name is Rafael Edward Cruz --was born in Canada in 1970 as his father was working for the oil industry there. The senator’s recently released birth certificate shows his mother was born in Delaware and his father was born in Cuba. The Cruz family left Canada a few years later. Cruz grew up in Texas and graduated from high school there, later attending Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

He also took the extra step of renouncing the Canadian citizenship he said he didn't even know he had.

By virtue of his American-born mother, Cruz, 44, considers himself a natural born citizen and eligible to run for president.

So is he eligible? The majority of legal minds believe he is. 

Is there the tiniest sliver of uncertainty? Yes, there’s that, too.

Constitutional requirements for president

The Constitution says any candidate for president must be at least 35 years of age, a resident within the United States for 14 years and a "natural born citizen."

In 2008, people raised questions about the "natural born" citizenship status of both major party candidates.

As of all current legal records, Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and his mother was a U.S. citizen. His father was Kenyan.

Then there was John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone because his American father served in the military. McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, saw his standing briefly challenged in court.

Interestingly, both of McCain’s potential Democratic opponents -- Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton -- co-sponsored a Senate measure to settle McCain’s eligibility. The April 2008 resolution said, "John Sidney McCain, III, is a 'natural born Citizen' under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States."

Defining "natural born"

So what is a "natural born" citizen? The Constitution doesn’t specifically say.

 The consensus amongst many top constitutional scholars is  that someone is a "natural born" citizen if they have citizenship at birth and don’t have to go through a naturalization process to become a citizen.

If that’s the definition, then Cruz is a natural born citizen by being born to an American mother and having her citizenship at birth. (This same logic would apply to Obama, even if he were born in another country such as Kenya)

The Congressional Research Service published a report on the issue after the 2008 election; the agency is tasked with providing authoritative research to all members of Congress. It, too, supported the thinking that "natural born" citizenship means citizenship held "at birth."

But the Supreme Court -- the ultimate arbiter of constitutional questions -- has never ruled on the matter. And that means a note of uncertainty remains.

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