Natural born citizen. Our Constitution requires presidents to be natural born citizens. “NO PERSON” can become president unless that person is a natural born citizen. Let’s parse the phrase.
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President;
The Law of Nations states that natural born citizens
are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) concurs that there is no doubt that
all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also,
and that those children are natural born citizens. Their citizenship is the natural result of Natural Law, as delineated by Vattel. As explained here:
It was only through both parents being citizens that the child was born with unity of citizenship and allegiance to the United States which the Framers required the President and Commander in Chief to have.
For that reason, if for no other, the SCOTUS has stated that there are doubts about the natural born citizenship status of children who were born under other circumstances (e.g., to only one citizen parent, or within the U.S. to non-citizen parents).
The naturalness of natural born citizenship comes from the fact that the status is obvious. A child born on U.S. soil to two U.S. citizen parents is by nature a citizen. The status of natural born citizen is, therefore, an inherited, obvious trait, if you will.
Papoose, one of our regulars, made a good analogy:
A natural born apple is not part banana. Its impossible.
Indeed it is impossible. That’s the problem with children born on the soil to parents both of whom are not citizens, or children born outside the USA to parents both of whom are not citizens or one of whom is a citizen but did not meet certain legal requirements set down by Congress. They are all partially something else.
For example, Barack Hussein Obama II was born with two citizenships (provided that his biography is as he has told us): He was a natural born British subject at birth. He was also a U.S. citizen, if he was born in Hawaii when it was a state and if his mother was a U.S. citizen. Since no one has ever seen his real, original birth certificate in paper form, the facts are not yet in evidence.
Similarly, Senator Ted Cruz was born with foreign citizenship, because he was born in Canada. Cruz admits that he is not a natural born U.S. citizen under the provisions of the Constitution, which is the Supreme Law of the Land:
I am a born citizen of the United States by statute: Title 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1401(g).
How can either man be a “naturally” born U.S. citizen? The natural born citizen status is one that’s obvious. A natural born citizen is not created by a statute. How can a person who was born into the citizenship of another country be also a natural born citizen of the USA?
Taking Papoose’s analogy off on a tangent: a pluot is a hybrid fruit created by crossing plum trees with apricot trees. A pluot is part apricot, part plum:
How can a pluot be a natural born apricot? It cannot.
How can a pluot be a natural born plum? It cannot.
Nor can a citizen who has inherited a foreign citizenship, and/or who has dual citizenship at birth, be a natural born citizen of the USA.
We also have the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to consider. That amendment addresses two types of citizens, born citizens and naturalized citizens:
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.
Note that the 14th Amendment makes no reference to the citizenship of the parents of persons born within the United States, other than the implications of the phrase subject to the jurisdiction thereof.
The 14th Amendment does not qualify “citizen”; thus, it refers to both born and naturalized citizens–simple citizenship, that is. It does not define or redefine natural born citizenship.
There are born citizens and there are naturalized citizens, so long as both types are subject to the jurisdiction of the USA. Children born abroad to citizen parents (or to one citizen parent) are merely children who were naturalized at birth by an Act of Congress.
Born citizens and naturalized citizens are both types of citizens. An “anchor baby” is, in some cases and according to a SCOTUS decision, arguably, a born citizen. And yet anchor babies are not natural born citizens, being born to parents who are not U.S. citizens–and perhaps who are not even legal residents of the USA–and who owe allegiance to a foreign power. By natural law, anchor babies do not owe sole allegiance to the USA, and their parents, in most cases, owe no allegiance to the USA.
How can those facts be made to conform with the intentions of the Founders, when they devised the eligibility requirements for Commander in Chief?
Is there a third type of citizen? I would argue yes. That would be the special type of born citizen: The natural born citizen.
Note that there is no hyphen between the adjectives natural and born. Although many sources cleverly add a hyphen, one does not exist in the written text of the Constitution.
Let’s consider that “born Citizen” is a compound noun:
A compound noun is a noun that is made with two or more words. A compound noun is usually [noun + noun] or [adjective + noun], but there are other combinations … . It is important to understand and recognize compound nouns. Each compound noun acts as a single unit and can be modified by adjectives and other nouns.
There are three forms for compound nouns:
1. open or spaced – space between words (tennis shoe)
2. hyphenated – hyphen between words (six-pack)
3. closed or solid – no space or hyphen between words (bedroom)
If “born Citizen”, as referenced in the Constitution, is a compound noun, then the adjective natural further refines the meaning of the phrase natural born-citizen (hyphen added for illustration).
An adjective modifies nouns and sometimes other adjectives. There are normal adjectives and then there are compound adjectives:
Compound adjectives, like normal adjectives, modify noun phrases. In the phrases heavy metal detector and heavy-metal detector, the latter is a compound adjective because the modifier is made of two words used in combination.
Note that not all sequences of adjectives (or other types of words) modifying a noun phrase are necessarily parts of one or more compound adjectives. Heavy metal detector and heavy-metal detector refer to subtly different things: in the first, heavy modifies metal detector, to describe a heavy device that detects metals, while in the second example, heavy modifies metal which together modify detector, to describe a device that detects heavy metals.
Therefore, the lack of a hyphen in the original written text between the words natural and born appears to indicate that the words do not comprise a compound adjective that modifies the word citizen.
If the words natural born were to comprise a compound adjective (such as heavy-metal in the example above), then natural-born would describe a citizen who was born by a natural process, not an unnatural process, such as through Caesarean section.
Instead, the word natural modifies the entire compound noun: born citizen. And so there are born citizens as well as the special class of born citizens, which are the natural born citizens, who derive their natural born status from nature–meaning it is inherited and intrinsic, something which cannot be bestowed or removed by any Act of Congress (or through any interpretation or re-interpretation by the SCOTUS: Saying doesn’t make it so. The SCOTUS could declare that a pluot is an apricot; but a pluot, intrinsically, will still not be an apricot!)
The history of the phrase seems to indicate that the Founders did believe that a natural born citizen belonged to a special class of born citizen:
An earlier draft of the document read as follows:“No Person except a Born Citizen shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
“Born Citizen” simply means born on U.S. soil—without regard to the citizenship of one’s parents.
On July 25, 1787, John Jay wrote:
Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government, and to declare expressly that the Command in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.
Subsequently, the draft was changed to read natural born Citizen, to ensure that any future presidential candidate was born a citizen and was also reared in sole allegiance to the USA, by virtue of having parents who were also citizens, both of whom had sole allegiance to this country.
We know what the phrase natural born Citizen meant to the Founders:
Born in the country of parents who are its citizens.
For the paramount purpose of national security, it is clear who is eligible and who is not eligible for the presidency. Only a Constitutional Amendment can extend eligibility to persons other than natural born citizens. That’s the right way to change this qualification, and only if We the People decide that we want to change it.
Incrementalism is not the way forward. Flouting the Constitution is not the way forward. Thumbing one’s nose at the “birthers” is not the way forward.
Only a Constitutional Amendment can change the Supreme Law of the Land.
Afterword: Senator Ted Cruz’s father did not become a U.S. citizen until the year 2005, when his son was 35 years old, coincidentally the age Ted Cruz must have attained in order to meet another eligibility requirement for the presidency. How can it be said that Ted Cruz was raised “with unity of citizenship and allegiance to the United States,” when his father remained a citizen of another country throughout Ted Cruz’s childhood and early adulthood?