This article was originally written by Mary Brigid McManamon, a constitutional law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School. It was originally published by the Washington Post:
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 the common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has saidwe must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, the 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.”
Cruz is, of course, a U.S. citizen. As he was born in Canada, he is not natural born. His mother, however, is an American, and Congress has provided by statute for the naturalization of children born abroad to citizens. Because of the senator’s parentage, he did not have to follow the lengthy naturalization process that aliens without American parents must undergo. Instead, Cruz was naturalized at birth. This provision has not always been available. For example, there were several decades in the 19th century when children of Americans born abroad were not given automatic naturalization.
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