Here we are again. Donald Trump is questioning a presidential candidate’s eligibility to run for office based on where they were born. When he cried afoul of Obama Trump was relying on conspiracy theory — the evidence is overwhelming that O was born in the US. This time Trump has his sights set on Ted Cruz, who is admittedly a Canadian-born US citizen.
Donald Trump is actually right about something: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.
The Constitution provides that “No person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The concept of “natural born” comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, the preeminent authority on it, declared natural-born citizens are “such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England,” while aliens are “such as are born out of it.” The key to this division is the assumption of allegiance to one’s country of birth. The Americans who drafted the Constitution adopted this principle for the United States. James Madison, known as the “father of the Constitution,” stated, “It is an established maxim that birth is a criterion of allegiance. . . . [And] place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States.”
So Trump might have a point. Oh dear…
This could be a real headache for the Republicans, particularly with Cruz as the GOP’s best chance of nominating a serious politician in stead of a…well, you know.
So should we allow Cruz, a citizen born in Canada to American parents, to run for President? There appears to be at least a plausible question of Cruz’s legitimacy as a candidate based on the Constitutional requirements. It’s time to choose your side.
But should we really have to choose sides at all? It hardly seems voters question Cruz’s allegiance to the United States. In that sense the “natural born” requirement is more of a technicality that political rivals like Trump can keep in their back pocket for when the race gets tight. Maybe the best solution to this problem is to reconsider the requirement all together. Maybe we’re at the point where a person who was born a citizen was born a citizen, regardless of whether the hospital where they were delivered was on US soil. No doubt international travel is far more common today than it was in the time of James Madison, so you have to wonder if he would have the same thoughts on birthplace and allegiance that he voiced over 200 years ago.
A constitutional amendment is no small feat, but if it gives Trump one less thing to shout about it might be worth the trouble.