Your Liberty is Our Interest

An explanation of Cruz being a natural born citizen

Below is a comment that was made on Ann Coulter’s article.  I think it does a good job of explaining the situation, including why Obama would not have been a natural born citizen if he was born in Kenya, while Cruz was a natural born citizen even though he was born in Canada.  The difference between those two situations has to do with the legal requirements for a mother to pass on citizenship to her child.  Under U.S. statute, the mother had to have lived in the U.S. for five years after her 14th birthday in order to be able to pass on her citizenship to her child.  Obama’s mother was only 18 when he was born, so she did not meet the statutory requirements, whereas Cruz’s mother was older and did meet the statutory requirements for passing on her U.S. citizenship to her child.  That is why the two situations are different.

The full comment is below:

Dinocaridid Jan 14, 2016 3:25 PM

For a person who is entirely ignorant of constitutional interpretation, Coulter is certainly very willing to throw around the term “constitutionally ignorant.” Given that nearly every authority on the Constitution, whichever side of the political aisle they fall on, takes the position she describes as “constitutionally ignorant,” she would be wise to use more humility.

Her first error concerns Obama, and she reveals that her research was cursory, at best. The law at the time was that a mother must have lived in the US for ten years, five after the age of fourteen, to pass on her citizenship. Obama’s mother was eighteen when he was born — she couldn’t have met the requirements, and thus Obama wasn’t a citizen at birth if he wasn’t born in the US. That Coulter doesn’t know this reveals that her previous position was based on ignorance, and casts doubt on her ability to think rationally.

She references Blackstone, but she has clearly never read Blackstone’s Commentaries. Blackstone is the authority on English Common Law, and would be the source of record for those writing the Constitution. His discussion of natural born citizens, which occurs in Commentaries 1:354, 357–58, 361–62, initially notes that there two types of people: aliens and natural born subjects. Natural born subjects are those born within the borders of the kingdom because — and this is important — they owed allegiance to and were under the protection of the king from birth. If one ignores the justification he provides, this might appear to support Coulter’s provision; however, he goes on to say that “an alien is one who is born out of the king’s dominions, or allegiance, this also must be understood with some restrictions.” He notes that Parliament expanded natural born subjects to those born to ambassadors, then — pay particular attention here — to those born to two citizen parents, and finally to those born to a citizen father.

Coulter’s argument falls flat on its face! She contends that Congress cannot change who is or is not a natural born citizen, and yet Blackstone, on whom the Founders would have relied, expressly accounts for the legislature expanding the definition of “natural born citizen” by expanding those born a citizen. Clearly, in Blackstone’s view and thus the view of those writing the Constitution, is that “natural born citizen” and “citizen at birth” were synonymous.

Coulter goes on to cite a number of Supreme Court opinions. It’s worth noting that not one of these is relevant enough to be considered precedent (and she quotes the Dissent in Kim Wong Ark — perhaps fitting, since she herself takes the minority position), but it’s far more interesting to note that not one says what she wants it to. They do say that Congress exercises its power to define naturalization law in deciding who becomes a citizen at birth, but Coulter’s failure to read Blackstone does her a disservice here, and she assumes that Congress cannot change who is or is not a natural born citizen. Clearly, this is false under English Common Law — the British Parliament used its authority to create naturalization law to expand natural-born citizenship, and so can the US Congress.

Her next misstep is a foray into judicial supremacy that would make Stephen Douglas proud, and have Jefferson rolling in his grave. She assumes that the Supreme Court — and only the Supreme Court — has the authority to decide what the Constitution says (the support for this position, by the way, is that that’s what the Supreme Court decided the Constitution says). This is dangerous nonsense, as I’m sure you know, and should be dismissed as such.

Finally, she dismissed the Naturalization Act of 1790, written by many of the same people who wrote the Constitution, because it said that those born abroad to US citizen mothers were merely “considered as” natural born citizens. She neglects to mention that this language is copied from the British acts that Blackstone notes expanded the definition of “natural born citizen” there: the language was such that someone familiar with British law could only have intended to include the child of a citizen born abroad among natural born citizens in precisely the same way as the children of citizens born in the US. Subsequent acts found it necessary only to specify that the children of US citizen parents were citizens from birth, evidently taking for granted that anyone knowledgeable on the law would know what that meant (so far, they’e been right).

Coulter has been dancing toward my bad side for some time now, but attempting to deceive my friends is low, even for her. There’s a reason nearly every constitutional scholar agrees that “citizen at birth” and “natural born citizen” are synonymous, but Coulter’s allegiance to her chosen candidate prevents her from seeing it.

January 15th, 2016 at 12:40 pm

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