Ted Cruz has just been sworn into office, and already rumors of a presidential run are swirling. Pundits are questioning if Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen eligible to run for president. Ted Cruz was born in Canada in 1970 of an American citizen mother and Cuban father. Although Ted Cruz was born in Canada, he is indeed a natural born citizen.
Due to misinformation propagated by birthers, many incorrectly assume one has to be born in a U.S. state or territory of two citizen parents to be a natural born citizen, but the term “natural born citizen” refers to citizenship at birth rather than through naturalization. The 14th amendment states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.
Ted Cruz was not born in a U.S. state or territory, so clearly he is not a birthright citizen under the 14th amendment. However, under the McCarran-Walter Act, he was still born a citizen, which makes Ted Cruz a natural born citizen. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services summarizes the laws in effect when Ted Cruz was born:
Natural born citizen defined
Our constitution doesn’t specifically define “natural born citizen” but is framed in English common law in effect at the time, and under English common law the term “natural born citizen” is understood to be a citizen at birth.
Blackstone defined “natural born subjects” as those born within the dominions of England, as amended by statute. In a monarchy, citizens are called “subjects” while in a Republic, “subjects” are called “citizens.” Americans stopped calling themselves “subjects” and began calling themselves “citizens”, consistent with the change in form of government from monarchy to republic. Blackstone’s commentaries was the most authoritative source on English Common law for over a century. From William Blackstone (1765), Commentaries 1:354, 357–58, 361–62
The first and most obvious division of the people is into aliens and natural-born subjects. Natural-born subjects are such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England, that is, within the ligeance, or as it is generally called, the allegiance of the king; and aliens, such as are born out of it.
However, Blackstone also recognizes natural born citizenship for subjects born abroad. English common law is comprised of precedents, court decisions, as amended by statutes.
Yet the children of the king’s embassadors born abroad were always held to be natural subjects: for as the father, though in a foreign country, owes not even a local allegiance to the prince to whom he is sent; so, with regard to the son also, he was held (by a kind of postliminium) to be born under the king of England’s allegiance, represented by his father, the embassador. To encourage also foreign commerce, it was enacted by statute 25 Edw. III. st. 2 (passed in 1350). that all children born abroad, provided both their parents were at the time of the birth in allegiance to the king, and the mother had passed the seas by her husband’s consent, might inherit as if born in England: and accordingly it hath been so adjudged in behalf of merchants. But by several more modern statutes these restrictions are still farther taken off: so that all children, born out of the king’s ligeance, whose fathers were natural-born subjects, are now natural-born subjects themselves, to all intents and purposes, without any exception; unless their said fathers were attainted, or banished beyond sea, for high treason; or were then in the service of a prince at enmity with Great Britain.
The Naturalization Act of 1790, passed just 12 months after our constitution became effective in 1789, undoubtedly reflects the understanding of “natural born citizen” in effect in that era, and states:
And the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens: Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States…
The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term “natural born” citizen would mean a person who is entitled to U.S. citizenship “by birth” or “at birth,” either by being born “in” the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; by being born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship “at birth.” Such term, however, would not include a person who was not a U.S. citizen by birth or at birth, and who was thus born an “alien” required to go through the legal process of “naturalization” to become a U.S. citizen.
Bob Quasius is the founder and president of Cafe Con Leche Republicans.