As speculation begins to mount over the presidential eligibility of Canadian-born Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the political world has gone on a two-day obsession spree with Cruz’s birth certificate and supposed Canadian citizenship.
On Sunday, Cruz released his birth certificate to the Dallas Morning News. On Monday, Cruz said in a late-night statement that he will renounce his Canadian citizenship. It all comes amid chatter that he is laying the groundwork for a 2016 presidential run, responding to critics and sowing the seeds for any potential legal challenges.
Famed Barack Obama “birther” Donald Trump said recently that Cruz is “perhaps not” eligible to run for president. But the release of Cruz’s birth certificate and the subsequent renunciation of Canadian citizenship firmly establishes whether he thinks he is eligible as a “natural born” U.S. citizen.
The questions about Cruz have little, if anything, in comparison with President Barack Obama. The “birtherism” that stemmed from Obama’s run in 2008 and presidency came from the fact that his father was born in Kenya. Obama’s mother was born in Kansas. And Obama himself, of course, was born in Honolulu, according to his birth certificate, though conspiracy theorists believed he was born elsewhere.
Cruz’s situation is quite different, in that he was actually born outside the United States. He was born in Calgary, Alberta, to a father from Cuba and — this is the key part — a mother from Wilmington, Del.
From the legal experts that the Dallas Morning News and others have talked to in investigations over Cruz’s eligibility, this satisfies the requirement of being a “natural-born U.S. citizen” — something that is ambiguous in the Constitution’s definition. But experts have agreed that it doesn’t have anything to do with where the person is actually born.
The Morning News said that Cruz actually has dual citizenship. In turn, he said Monday night that he would look to renounce his Canadian citizenship.
His full statement (emphasis added):
“Given the raft of stories today about my birth certificate, it must be a slow news day. The facts of my birth are straightforward: I was born in 1970 in Calgary, Canada. Because my mother was a U.S. citizen, born in Delaware, I was a U.S. citizen by birth. When I was a kid, my Mum told me that I could choose to claim Canadian citizenship if I wanted. I got my U.S. passport in high school.
Because I was a U.S. citizen at birth, because I left Calgary when I was 4 and have lived my entire life since then in the U.S., 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 U.S. 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. George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father, was born in Mexico to Mormon missionaries. He ran for president in 1968.
And in 2008, Republican John McCain’s status was also somewhat in question. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Both then-Democratic Sens. and candidates Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) sponsored a resolution that resolved McCain’s status as a “natural born citizen.” McCain’s parents were both born in the United States.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service also attempted to tackle the question of who is a “natural-born citizen” in a November 2011 report.
A reading of the report concludes that someone in Cruz’s situation would be eligible. 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 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. […]
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 U.S. citizen-parents, at least one of whom had previously resided in the United States, or those born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent who, prior to the birth, had met the requirements of federal law for physical presence in the country.
Of course, all of this is not a predictor of how courts would theoretically settle the rule, if any challenge were brought. If history is any indication, however — considering the outrage that has followed questions of Obama and McCain’s eligibilities — a serious challenge is unlikely.
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