Qualifications for the Job of President

With his declaration of candidacy for President, Senator Ted Cruz has unfortunately launched the Republican Party into the same realm of lawlessness traversed by the Democratic Party when its delegates nominated Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Neither man is eligible to be President based upon the qualifications listed in the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution makes a clear distinction between the citizenship requirements for a U.S. Representative (Article I, Section 1), U.S. Senator (Article I, Section 2), and the President (Article II, Section 1). While Representatives and Senators have more lenient citizenship requirements (they must only be “citizens” for a specified period of time), the President has to be a “natural born citizen.” Of all the millions of jobs in the U.S., only two jobs — President and Vice-President — require the worker to be a “natural born citizen.”1 The critical question is obviously this: What did the writers of the U.S. Constitution mean by the term “natural born” when they applied this unique requirement to the President? 2

The Founding Fathers relied heavily upon the work of Swiss philosopher Emerich de Vattel when drafting the Constitution. In 1758 Vattel wrote the following in The Law of Nations: “…natural born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens…The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children…in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country” (emphasis added).3 The Founders rightly understood that the most influential component of a child’s upbringing is his parents – and the cultural, philosophical, political, and religious influence of a child’s parents fundamentally establish the direction of his future conduct and decision making.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1875), which is the only defining precedent on the Constitution’s use of the term “natural born Citizen,” the Court concluded the following: “At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners” (emphasis added).4

Numerous writers are already trying to validate Ted Cruz’s eligibility, stating he can be President because he is a U.S. “citizen.” Is it enough for Senator Cruz to be a “citizen,” or is something more required by the term “natural born”? What are the categories of U.S. citizenship, and who might qualify to be President under those various types of citizenship status?

Category I. A person is a U.S. citizen if he is born in the U.S., even if neither parent is a U.S. citizen (as long as his parents are not foreign diplomats). This is the citizenship status of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is listed alongside Senator Ted Cruz in national straw polls as a prospective Presidential candidate. Jindal’s parents were student visa holders from India when he was born; neither of his parents was a U.S. citizen. While Governor Jindal is obviously a patriotic American, another U.S. citizen of this same citizenship category was not — yet he could have been considered for the Presidency if the Founder’s definition of a natural born citizen is rejected. I refer to the radical al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a central figure involved in planning the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Anwar al-Awlaki was born in the U.S. to parents from the country of Yemen and was thus considered a U.S. “citizen.” He met the age and residence requirements to be President. Would you want to dilute the meaning of natural born citizen to allow Anwar al-Awlaki to be a candidate for President?

Category 2. A person is also a U.S. citizen if he is born in the U.S. or anywhere in the world to one parent who is a U.S. citizen. This situation is complicated, since the child is also often a dual (or even triple) citizen at birth, receiving the citizenship of the country where he is born as well as the citizenship of each parent. This is the situation of Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and possibly Rick Santorum5. Barack Obama was a dual U.S. – British citizen at birth (his father was a British subject of Kenya) and is even now a dual U.S. – Kenyan citizen after adoption of the Kenyan constitution in 2010. If we go back to Vattel’s statement, it is clearly evident from President Obama’s writings and economic and foreign policy decisions that the U.S. is not “his” country; rather, his allegiance is to the country of his Islamic father (Kenya), his Islamic step-father (Indonesia), and his Communist/socialist father-mentors. While I do not doubt the patriotism of Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum, who were all raised in the U.S, the current President should be ample evidence of the dangers of accepting this category of citizenship as being the same as a “natural born citizen.” Barack Obama’s loyalties are clearly to the ideologies of the nations of his fathers, who were not U.S. citizens.

Also problematic is the potential for this second citizenship category to result in dual citizenship. The U.S. Constitution was very carefully crafted by patriotic, wise men under Divine inspiration. It is no accident that the words “natural born” precede the citizenship requirement for the President, while being omitted from the listed qualifications for Representative and Senator. It was unthinkable that a nation newly freed from foreign oppression would allow a dual citizen to serve as head-of-state and military commander-in-chief!

Category 3. A person is a U.S. citizen if he is born to parents who are both U.S. citizens, regardless of his place of birth. This person is clearly a natural born citizen. As Vattel wrote, it is the child’s parentage that is significant, not the place of his birth. If both of a child’s parents are U.S. citizens, he will be rooted in American language and culture, even if he is born and raised in a foreign country (such as to parents who are in the Armed Forces, serving as missionaries, or working in U.S. diplomacy). This “foreign-born” circumstance of natural born citizenship was affirmed as recently as 2008, in the case of Republican nominee Senator John McCain, who was born to U.S. citizens who were serving on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone. All but three, and possibly four5, of the current prospective Presidential candidates fit this citizenship category; voters need look no further than these candidates, but should omit from consideration all candidates from the other citizenship categories.

Category 4. A person may become a “naturalized” citizen after fulfilling various requirements of legal immigration, lawful residence in the U.S., and examination. Naturalized citizens may serve as U.S. Representatives or Senators, but they clearly do not have the same citizenship status as natural born citizens.

Ted Cruz and Barack Obama were both dual citizens at birth, not natural born citizens whose parents both owed allegiance to the United States. While I do not doubt Senator Cruz’s loyalty to the United States (and I appreciate his decision to relinquish his Canadian citizenship), he can never satisfy the “letter of the law” stated in the U.S. Constitution. Harvard law professors (writing in the Harvard Review to try to justify Ted Cruz’s eligibility), Congressional Research Services staff (Jack Haskell’s memorandum to Congress seeking to justify Barack Obama’s eligibility6), the courts, and Congress have no authority to change what the U.S. Constitution clearly states and intended: The President of the United States can only be a person whose parents were both U.S. citizens.

Ted Cruz claims to be a defender of the Constitution, yet he is violating that very document in seeking the Presidency. The Idaho Republican Party is unfortunately complicit in this constitutional violation by listing Ted Cruz (as well as Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and potentially ineligible candidate Rick Santorum5) on their web site’s straw poll of prospective Republican Presidential candidates.7 Wise voters can reject Senator Cruz as a candidate, even if he chooses not to drop out of the race before the Republican primaries and caucuses begin in 2016. And we can support his efforts in the U.S. Senate, an office for which he is unquestionably eligible.

1 According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics representative, almost 250 million persons held jobs in the U.S. labor force as of February 2015. Data obtained by phone on March 25, 2015. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 202-691-5200).

2 By implication, the Vice-President must also be a natural born citizen, because the Vice-President shall assume the responsibilities of President under specified circumstances stated in the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

3 Quoted from Paul R. Hollrah’s essay “The Obama Eligibility Question,” November 9, 2012. Additional information from this essay also informed the content of this article.

4 Ibid.

5 I could find no conclusive evidence that Rick Santorum’s father Aldo, who immigrated to the U.S. at age seven, ever became a U.S. citizen. In this article Rick Santorum dismisses questions about Barack Obama’s eligibility, apparently believing it is “enough” that Obama’s mother was a U.S. citizen and Obama was (theoretically) born in the U.S. Documentation has been presented regarding Aldo’s legal immigration, but not his oath of allegiance to the U.S./naturalization:! I sent a request to Santorum’s grassroots group Patriot Voices asking for information about the citizenship status of Santorum’s parents, but have not yet received a satisfactory reply – only a statement that he hasn’t yet declared his candidacy. I believe it is Santorum’s responsibility to prove both his parents were U.S. citizens at the time of his birth, given that his father was an immigrant.

6 This is one sample article discussing the Jack Haskell memorandum to Congress regarding Barack Obama’s eligibility and the lack of any mechanism to vet the qualifications of Presidential candidates:!

7 See the Idaho GOP’s Presidential straw poll at this link:

Evalyn Bennett is a registered Republican, a tea party patriot and an evangelical Christian – and thus a member of the very voter base Senator Cruz is hoping to gain as his supporters. She cannot, however, support his candidacy for President, because he is not eligible to hold that office.

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