08 January 2016

Natural Born Citizen

Something I wish someone would ask-
What is the difference between a "citizen", and a "Natural Born Citizen", and why did the Founding Fathers use the latter term as regards eligibility to be president?


Unfortunately Anonymous said...

First of all, I am NOT a Lawyer. Please take all this with a very large grain of salt. Some exclusions apply. Additional cost for tax, tag, title, license, and fees. See store for details.

Almost anyone can be a citizen. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a citizen. George Bush is a citizen. What is the difference?

The moment George was born (to two citizens of the US, on US soil), he became a citizen. Therefore he was born (naturally) into citizenship.

Arnold is a different story. He was born in Austria to Austrian parents. When he was 18, he served in the Austrian Army for one year of compulsory service. At the age of 21 the immigrated to the US. At 36, he became a citizen of the USA.

When the constitution was written, the authors realized that some day, someone might want to run for office that had not been born a citizen. Someone who had strong ties and allegiances to another country. Someone who had fought in another country's military. Someone whose parents might still live in another country. What happens if, in that person's term, war must be declared on that country? What if another country declares war on them? What if FDR had been born in Germany to German parents?

The "Natural Birth" clause was written to avoid these sorts of complications. But back in those days, it was very straightforward to determine if someone was a natural-born citizen. Children who were born in the country were citizens. Simple. Since then, it has gotten a little more complicated. If a child is born in an embassy? On a military base in another country? To a pair of citizens who are on vacation when the baby comes early?

Fortunately, the courts have made this relatively easy on us. They have ruled in the broadest way possible for almost the entire history of our country. If someone can be considered a citizen at the moment of their birth, they are a natural-born citizen. One parent is a citizen? You're in! Born on US soil? Good to go! Born in a territory that later becomes a state (Chester A Arthur)? Citizen! Born in D.C. (Al Gore)? OK! Born on a Naval Air Base in the Panama Canal Zone (John McCain)? Actually, there was some question on that one, but it almost certainly would have been fine.

I think that covers most of the basics. For more (FUN!) reading, you might be interested in a paper by the Congressional Research Services: "Qualifications for President and the “Natural Born” Citizenship Eligibility Requirement". This thrilling tour-de-force covers over 200 years of common-law interpretation, judgments and rulings in 50 pages with more than 200 footnotes! In case you want to skip the heart-stopping thrill, though, here is the stunning conclusion to the paper.


The weight of more recent federal cases, as well as the majority of scholarship on the subject, also indicates that the term “natural born citizen” would most likely include, as well as native born citizens, those born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents, at least one of whom had previously resided in the United States, or those born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent who, prior to the birth, had met the requirements of federal law for physical presence in the country.

For a broader basic overview, the Wikipedia article seems like a pretty good source of information.

Greybeard said...

Excellent response U.A..
Now answer me this...
If you've previously renounced your citizenship and have applied for a scholarship as a "foreign student", are you still "natural born"?
What a mess.

Ingineer66 said...

I guess this has already been answered quite well. I learned in junior high that it was put in because the founders were weary of foreign influence. Which would play into our current situation. We have a President that may not be foreign born nor a Muslim, but he is overly sympathetic to their causes.

Unfortunately Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I'm assuming you're referring to the one who went to undergrad at Occidental and later Columbia University and Harvard.

I will admit, I haven't kept up with the news as much as I used to. I haven't heard anything about him renouncing citizenship at any time. I do find it easy to believe that someone would apply as a foreign student if they had dual citizenship. I'm pretty sure I knew at least one person who did that, but I'm not about to ask them.

From here on, I have to speak hypothetically and with less info than I usually do. Most of my earlier comment came from a family conversation over Christmas; I just had to pull up info I already had.

First, I'll assume we're talking about the same person: Barry O. What do we know for facts?

One of his parents was a US citizen and one of them was not. This qualifies him as a natural-born citizen.

He was born in Hawaii. Some people will argue this, but I have a Very Reliable Source. They will remain anonymous, but I can say is that any doubts I may have had at one time are gone. He was born on US soil. This qualifies him as a natural-born citizen.

Dual citizenship is where this gets difficult. I'm not sure a case of a dual-national citizen running for President has ever come before the Supreme Court. I think that as long as the individual renounced their second citizenship prior to taking office, there would not be a problem. Was he a dual-citizen at the time he took office? If not, then it should pose no problem.

But let's suppose he is a dual-citizen today. Alternatively, what would happen if an easily certifiable Indonesian Birth Certificate came along today saying he had been born and adopted in Indonesia, taking away both his natural-born qualifications. What would happen?

1) As per the Constitution, the President is removed from office.
2) The Vice President takes over as President. The line of succession is updated.
3) The Supreme Court is called to emergency session. A lawsuit has been filed stating that every bill signed into law by the Former President is to be null and void, due to a constitutionally ineligible person signing the bill.
4) After a few days of intense debate and deliberation, the Supreme Court votes in a solid majority (6-3 or more) that any laws signed by the Former President are valid. If the New President or Congress wants to repeal any of them specifically, they can try to pass that through.
4 alternative) After a few days of intense debate and deliberation, the Supreme Court votes that any laws signed by the Former President are invalid. Chaos ensues as every law, every bit of federal funding, the entire tax code, and every bit of executive action is rolled back to 2008.
5) There is a lot of complaining on all sides of the political spectrum.

Here's the thing. A portion of the Republican Party wants Obama out of office, no matter what. Trying to retroactively nullify what he has done is a perfect way to create a constitutional crisis.

Do I agree with what he has done? No. Do I think the media was in large part complicit in letting him get away with making claims that were not checked thoroughly? Yes. Do we, as conservatives, need to move on past battles that have already gone by and move on to bigger fights that are happening now? Absolutely.

Wait a moment. Where did this soap box come from? I don't remember getting one of these, or standing on it. Oh, well.

Ingineer66 said...

UA I agree with you. We need to move on and confront the Hillary threat. But my feeling is that based on his being raised in Indonesia as a Muslim should have been vetted enough that he wouldn't have made the first cut.