Could Ted Cruz become President? Understanding the Natural Born Citizen clause in Art II Section 1

One of our long time hosts in Southern California sent in the following editorial to the Orange County Register:

Steve Jackson
Fountain Valley

August 20, 2013

The news is abuzz with stories about Ted Cruz’s possible run for President of the United States in 2016. With “birthers” still challenging Barrack Obama’s eligibility, the “experts” tell us Cruz’s birth in Canada could be problematic.

Cruz’s birth certificate shows his father was Cuban and his mother American. By virtue of his mother’s citizenship and modern naturalization rules, he holds American citizenship as well as Canadian.

Does his American citizenship qualify Ted Cruz to be a Presidential candidate? Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 5 of the U.S. Constitution states: “No Person except a natural born Citizen…shall be eligible to the Office of President…”

In truth, the issue is not one’s citizenship, or even the place of one’s birth. The issue is whether one is a natural born citizen.

Words have meaning. That surely includes those words in the Supreme Law of our land. So where did the Framers get the term “natural born citizen”?

The standard source for International law in 1787, including matters of citizenship, was Emmerich de Vattel’s The Law of Nations – the Principles of Natural Law Applied to the Conduct and to the Affairs of Nations and of Sovereigns. Book I, Chapter XIX, Section 212 states: “…The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens…”

Because of international travel, children are sometimes born in a country foreign to their parents; so exceptions have always been made to the “born in the country” clause. A recent example was Presidential candidate John McCain who was born in Panama while his father was serving there in the U.S. military.

But the “of parents [plural] who are citizens” clause is critical. It disqualifies Ted Cruz because his father was Cuban.

Will this quiet the buzz? I think not. But it should. For as the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, said: “Every word of it decides a question between power and liberty.”