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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Constitutional Requirements of Natural Born Citizenship for President

“There has been some controversy in the last two presidential elections about candidates meeting the constitutional requirements of natural born citizenship. Can you give me some information about this?  Also, what paperwork do I need if I would decide to run for president?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff was aware that this issue was discussed for both candidates in the 2008 election and again in the 2012.

Looking online, the staff found many websites with opinions but wanted a nonbiased, legal opinion.  On November 14, 2011, Legislative Attorney Jack Maskell published the 53 page article, Qualifications for President and the “Natural Born” Citizenship Eligibility Requirement for the Congressional Research Service.  The CRS Report is for Congress, prepared for members and committees of Congress. The summary begins with:
“The Constitution sets out three eligibility requirements to be President: one must be 35 years of age, a resident ‘within the United States’ for 14 years, and a ‘natural born Citizen.’ There is no Supreme Court case which has ruled specifically on the presidential eligibility requirements and this clause has been the subject of several legal and historical treatises over the years, as well as more recent litigation. The term ‘natural born’ citizen is not defined in the Constitution, and there is no discussion of the term evident in the notes of the Federal Convention of 1787.”  
And then closes with:
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.’”
The full report includes the following sections: History of the Qualifications Clause in the Federal Convention of 1787, Common Law Meaning of the Term “Natural Born” Citizen or Subject, Common Understanding in 18th Century of the Term “Natural Born” Citizen, and Citizenship at Birth: Case Law and Interpretation.  This latter section includes Legal Cases and Senator McCain and Legal Cases and President Obama.

The second part of the inquiry was answered by the Federal Election Commission, which has an online Candidate Registration Toolkit as well as all the forms needed to declare candidacy. We were not able to find any indication that you are required to show a birth certificate to file.  Once candidates have declared, they are sometimes asked to prove that they are natural born citizens.  According to the Wikipedia article: Natural-born-citizen clause, there have been other candidates whose eligibility has been questioned. The list includes such famous names as President Chester A. Arthur, Barry Goldwater, George Romney, John McCain, and President Barack Obama.

1 comment:

TJ in Texas said...

Begging your pardon, but that is incorrect.

According to the United States Supreme Court in Rogers v. Bellei - 401 U.S. 815 (1971)
"Although those Americans who acquire their citizenship under statutes conferring citizenship on the foreign-born children of citizens are not popularly thought of as naturalized citizens, the use of the word "naturalize" in this way has a considerable constitutional history. Congress is empowered by the Constitution to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization," Art. I, § 8. Anyone acquiring citizenship solely under the exercise of this power is, constitutionally speaking, a naturalized citizen."

"1 Stat. 103, 104. This provision is the earliest form of the statute under which Bellei acquired his citizenship. Its enactment as part of a "Rule of Naturalization" shows, I think, that the First Congress conceived of this and most likely all other purely statutory grants of citizenship as forms or varieties of naturalization."

Meeting legal requirements for citizenship at birth does not make someone a "natural born citizen", it only makes them a citizen.

According to the Supreme Court case of Minor V. Happersett
"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.

These two statements by the Supreme Court establish that there are only two kinds of citizens, those that are "natural born" (born in a country of parents who are its citizens) and naturalized citizens (those who are made citizens by an act of law).