In fairness, one of the birther’s champions, multi-time presidential contender Donald Trump, has turned his birther ire to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).Trump at least acknowledges that Cruz has a significant hurdle to overcome; namely, how the courts will respond to someone who has had dual citizenship and who was born outside the United States.
Cruz does not hide that he was born in Canada. He was born in 1970 while his parents contracted for a Canadian oil company in Calgary. His mother was an American citizen, but he was not born within the boundaries of the United States.
As one of our lesser known U.S. presidents, Chester A. Arthur had a fairly uneventful presidency — one that was primarily marked by his poor health. But his election and presidency were constantly bombarded by claims from the Democratic Party that he wasn’t even a citizen of the United States, and not eligible to be president!
While the Democrats didn’t claim he was born halfway around the world in a different continent, they did claim he was born 15 miles into Canada, in the small town of Bedford. Arthur claimed to have been born in Fairfield, Vermont.
The Democrats didn’t have any “smoking-gun,” but they did have a lot of evidence, like the fact that Arthur’s mother lived in Canada at the time he was born, he had no birth certificate or church records, and Arthur consistently lied about his birth date.
On the flip-side, Arthur’s father was elected to the Fairfield School Board just a few months prior to his birth.
“Birthers” hounded Arthur after office, and while he only lived another year after office, he burned his entire collection of papers — forever leaving the question unanswered.
President Arthur’s legacy wasn’t about his alleged lack of citizenship. His legacy was that he was an honest politician during a time of universal political corruption. He was an enemy of cronyism and graft, and made plenty of enemies from his fight against corruption.
He was an independent-minded politician, who didn’t always tote the party-line. While this got him in trouble with his own party (the Republican Party), it got him high praise from Mark Twain, who stated “It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur’s administration.”
All of this will rest on the court’s interpretation of a single sentence of the U.S. Constitution:
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; 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. — U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5
The issue of the qualification of the various officers of the federal government was of significant concern to the constitutional convention.
While a total ban on immigrants serving within our government was against the “spirit of the Revolution,” the Founders were well aware of the fact that new immigrants still had ties and allegiances to their motherlands (as often seen in the birther conspiracies).
Time limits for residency were included for the House, Senate, and presidency, but the presidency also required the special clause “No Person except a natural born Citizen…shall be eligible to the Office of the President…”
So what does that mean?
Unfortunately the Constitution does not define what a natural-born citizen is, but the first Congress took it upon themselves to do so.
The Naturalization Act of 1790 clearly defines citizenship and naturalization in a two-paragraph law, stating:
…the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States.
Various court opinions have given different interpretations of “natural born;” especially revolving around the post-Civil War constitutional amendments regarding the integration of former slaves into free society.
On thing is certain: if Ted Cruz gathers even the smallest trace of enough steam to go the distance, there will be a thorough vetting that will eventually wind up in the Supreme Court.