Top-tier presidential candidate and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has faced another round of questions over his White House eligibility over the past week, reviving a firestorm over the issue that first erupted two years ago.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump brought the subject to the forefront this week, after he insinuated in a Washington Post interview that Cruz’s birth in Canada would be a “precarious” legal issue for Republicans if they nominated him.
“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That would be a big problem,” Trump said, according to The Post. “It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.”
Cruz first released his birth certificate to the Dallas Morning News in 2013. The day after, he said in a late-night statement that he would renounce his Canadian citizenship. Amid the latest firestorm, his campaign released his mother’s birth certificate to the conservative website Breitbart on Friday.
Back in 2013, Trump said that Cruz was “perhaps not” eligible to run for president. Trump was once one of the most prominent people questioning the birthplace of President Barack Obama, who eventually released his long-form birth certificate in 2011.
But the questions about Cruz have little, if any, comparison to the the conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace. The “birtherism” dogged Obama stemmed from the fact that his father was born in Kenya. But Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and Obama himself was born in Honolulu, according to his birth certificate, though many conspiracy theorists are sceptical about the document.
Cruz’s situation is quite different, in that he was actually born outside the US. He was born in Calgary, Alberta, to a father from Cuba and a mother from Wilmington, Delaware.
From the legal experts to whom the Dallas Morning News and others have spoken in investigations over Cruz’s eligibility, the US citizenship of Cruz’s mother at the time should satisfy the constitutional requirement of being a “natural-born” citizen. The Constitution does not define what “natural born” means, but the expert consensus is that a person only has to be a US citizen at birth to meet that threshold.
Cruz once had dual citizenship. He said in 2013 that he would renounce his Canadian citizenship.
“Because my mother was a US citizen, born in Delaware, I was a US citizen by birth,” he said in a 2013 statement. “When I was a kid, my Mum told me that I could choose to claim Canadian citizenship if I wanted. I got my US passport in high school. “
Because I was a US citizen at birth, because I left Calgary when I was 4 and have lived my entire life since then in the US, and because I have never taken affirmative steps to claim Canadian citizenship, I assumed that was the end of the matter. Now the Dallas Morning News says that I may technically have dual citizenship. Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship. Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a US senator, I believe I should be only an American.
There are a couple of high-profile precedents for presidential contenders who were born outside the United States. Notably, George Romney was born in Mexico to Mormon missionaries parents and ran for president in 1968.
His son, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, defended both Cruz’s and Obama’s citizenship on Friday.
And in 2008, Sen. John McCain’s (R-Arizona) “natural-born” status was also somewhat in question. McCain, the Republican Party’s nominee that year, was born in the Panama Canal Zone, which was a US territory at the time but has since been turned over to Panama. McCain’s parents were both born in the US.
Both then-Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidates at the time, sponsored a resolution firmly stating that McCain met the Constitution’s requirement that presidents are “natural-born” citizens.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service also attempted to tackle the question of who is a “natural-born citizen” in a November 2011 report.
The report suggests that someone in Cruz’s situation would be indeed be eligible to become president. Here are the key paragraphs (emphasis added):
The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term “natural born” citizen would mean a person who is entitled to US 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 US citizen-parents; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for US citizenship “at birth.” Such term, however, would not include a person who was not a US 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 US citizen. […]
The weight of more recent federal cases, as well as the majority of scholarship on the subject, also indicates that the term “natural born citizen” would most likely include, as well as native born citizens, those born abroad to US citizen-parents, at least one of whom had previously resided in the United States, or those born abroad to one US citizen parent who, prior to the birth, had met the requirements of federal law for physical presence in the country.
Although legal experts widely believe Cruz is eligible for the Oval Office, the courts have yet to rule on the issue and could theoretically complicate the senator’s plans if a legal challenge were brought before them. If history is any indication, however, a serious challenge would be unlikely.
For his part, McCain actually suggested this past week that it’s “worth looking into” whether Cruz is eligible to run for president.
“I think there is a question,” McCain said. “I’m not a constitutional scholar on that, but I think it’s worth looking into. I don’t think it’s illegitimate to look into it.”
Cruz responded to McCain by alleging his remarks came from his desire to support Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), one of Cruz’s rivals, for president.