Monday morning, at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), announced his 2016 presidential campaign.

Ted Cruz at Liberty U., March 23, 2015Ted Cruz, joined by wife Heidi and daughters, announces his presidential campaign at Liberty U., March 23, 2015

Ted Cruz was born on December 22, 1970 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where his parents were working in the oil business as owners of a seismic-data processing firm for oil drillers. Cruz’s parents returned to Houston in 1974. They divorced when Ted was in law school.

While Ted Cruz’s mother, Eleanor, was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, in a family of three quarters Irish and one quarter Italian descent, Ted’s father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, was not a U.S. citizen at the time of Ted’s birth.

Rafael Cruz was born in 1939 in Matanzas, Cuba. He fought for Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution when he was 14 years old, but claims he “didn’t know Castro was a Communist.” In 1957, 18-year-old Rafael fled Cuba and landed in Austin, to study at the University of Texas, graduating with a degree in mathematics. In 2005, Rafael became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is a pastor in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

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Article II, Section 1:5 of the United States Constitution says:

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 ofthirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

SO WHAT DOES “NATURAL BORN” CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES MEAN?

The problem is that the U.S. Constitution does not define the term “natural born citizen nor is the term found in any existing Federal statute. Although the U.S.-born child of a foreign-citizen parent is a U.S. citizen by modern-day policy, no existing Federal statute declares such a child to be a natural born citizen.

Stephen Tonchen, in his essay “Presidential Eligibility Tutorial,” presents at least three schools of thought on what “natural born citizen” means:

DEFINITION #1: “NATURAL BORN CITIZEN” IS ANYONE BORN IN THE UNITED STATES

According to a Congressional Research Service memorandum (April 3, 2009),the weight of legal opinion is that anyone born in the United States, except the child of a foreign diplomat, is a natural born citizen:

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The weight of scholarly legal and historical opinion appears to support the notion that “natural born Citizen” means one who is entitled under the Constitution or laws of the United States to U.S. citizenship “at birth” or “by birth,” including any child born “in” the United States (other than to foreign diplomats serving their country) … [Maskell (2009), p.5]

But the Heritage Foundation points out that “prior to 2009, the U.S. State Department [had] . . . seeds of doubt regarding the legal status, at birth, of children born in the United States, of alien parents who are in the United States temporarily or illegally.”

DEFINITION #2: “NATURAL BORN CITIZEN” ALSO MEANS A FOREIGN-BORN CHILD OF U.S.-CITIZEN PARENTS

In 1790, Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1790, which said:

And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.

But James Madison, in 1795, expressed concern that someone might erroneously infer from the 1790 Act that the foreign-born children of American parents actually “are” (not merely “considered as”) natural born citizens.

Sen. John McCain was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, to two U.S. citizens, naval officer John S. McCain Jr. and Roberta (Wright) McCain. At that time, the Panama Canal was under U.S. control. In 2008, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 511 regarding presidential candidate John McCain’s natural born citizenship, but the resolution was nonbinding and had no legal effect.

DEFINITION #3: A FOREIGN-BORN CHILD OF A NON-U.S. CITIZEN PARENT CANNOT BE A “NATURAL BORN CITIZEN”

Then there is the question of whether both the mother and father must be U.S. citizens for their foreign-born child to be considered a “natural born” U.S. citizen:

  • According to federal case law prior to 1898, U.S. citizenship at birth was based on the principle of partus sequitur patrem or offspring follows the status of the father.
  • The Supreme Court in Inglis v. Trustees (1830) and Elk v. Wilkins (1884) ruled that a child born on U.S. soil, of a father who owes allegiance to a sovereignty other than the United States, is not a U.S. citizen at birth; and that the citizenship of such a child is that of its father, not its place of birth. Consequently, the U.S.-born child of a foreign-citizen father cannot be a natural born citizen.

In 2004, Senate Bill S.2128: Natural Born Citizen Act gave a definition of “natural born citizen”, but it never became law. As of today, there is no Federal statute that explicitly defines who is, and who is not, a natural born citizen. Even if there were such a statute, it would most likely be unconstitutional because Congress does not have the authority to change the meaning of the Constitution by passing a law that redefines a term that the Constitution uses. Only the Supreme Court has the constitutional authority to interpret the Constitution, but the Supreme Court has to date refused to specify what “natural born” in Article II of the U.S. Constitution means. Alternatively, a definition of “natural born citizen” can be supplied via a Constitutional Amendment.

Ted Cruz may be considered a “natural born” U.S. citizen according to Definition #2 only if #2 refers to a foreign-born child who has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth.

Ted Cruz is definitely not a “natural born” U.S. citizen under either Definition #1 or Definition #3.

Ted Cruz graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1995, so he knows full well the above.

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Now you know why the GOP never contested Barack Obama’s suspect “natural born” citizenship — he who supposedly was born in Honolulu, Hawaii (but document forensics experts say his Hawaii birth certificate is fraudulent) of a U.S. citizen mother but a Kenyan father who was then a subject of Great Britain because Kenya was then a British colony.

See also:

~Éowyn

Dr. Eowyn’s post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.