Is Ted Cruz a Natural Born Citizen?

With the increasing prominence of Senator Ted Cruz and the possibility that he might run for President, there has been a renewed interest in whether Cruz, who was born to an American mother and a non-American father in Canada, is a natural born citizen.  At the time of his birth, a federal statute made a baby born in his situation an American citizen at birth.  The question is whether that makes Cruz  a “natural born citizen” under the U.S. Constitution.

Some commentators have sought to make points against both Cruz and originalism.  One argues that Cruz would be a natural born citizen under all theories of constitutional interpretation, except his own – originalism.

Over at the Originalism Blog, Mike Ramsey has a long post discussing the issue.  While anyone interested in the issue should read the entire post, the summary is that Cruz is a natural born citizen under an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.  According to Ramsey, the meaning of the phrase is a person who is a U.S. citizen at birth under the laws at the time of his birth.  Thus, Cruz is a natural born citizen.

The most surprising part of the post is Ramsey’s claim that being a natural born citizen and a naturalized citizen are not mutually exclusive.  He writes:

The discussion is sometimes framed as a dichotomy between natural born (meaning a citizen at birth) and naturalized (meaning one who became a citizen later).  That may be modern usage, but it’s not the eighteenth century meaning.  Blackstone used “naturalized” to mean “made a citizen by statute,” whether at birth or otherwise.  For example, he referred to the statute making subjects of some children born abroad as an act “for naturalizing the children of English parents born abroad.”  That use carried over into the U.S. in the 1790 Act, which is called an act of naturalization (passed under Congress’ power to provide a uniform rule of naturalization), and continued at least at far forward as the Fourteenth Amendment – which says there are two ways to be a citizen: born in the U.S. or naturalized.  So the question isn’t whether Ted Cruz is naturalized.  He is – from birth, by statute.  The question is whether someone naturalized at birth by statute is a natural born citizen.  . . . Blackstone thought children naturalized at birth “are” natural born subjects, whereas people naturalized later had most but not all the rights of the natural born (including those naturalized at birth by statute).  And notably, the principal rights those naturalized later did not have (but those naturalized at birth did have) were eligibility to certain high offices.

This is a significant post.  Moreover, it is another example of the progress that is being made on originalism now that people are interested in the subject.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

About the Author


  1. David Upham says

    The reason why there is an assumed dichotomy between “natural-born” and “naturalized,” is that so many individuals at the Founding spoke that way. Perform a Google Book search, from 1750 to 1820, and one can find many writers distinguishing the two. See, e.g., Wilson’s Lectures on Law, where Wilson referred to “subjects naturalized or natural born.”

  2. Glen Day says

    In the history of the United States 44 men have been president. Of these, 34 were born after 1787 and subject to the “natural-born Citizen” requirement. With two exceptions, these 34 presidents were born in the U.S. of parents who were both U.S. citizens. The exceptions were Barak H. Obama and Chester A. Arthur. President Obama’s situation is well known. President Arthur’s situation is less so.

    Attorney Leo Donofrio researched the matter and discovered that President Arthur was not a natural-born citizen and hid that fact from the nation. Arthur was born in Vermont in 1829. His mother, Malvina Stone, was also born in Vermont. His father, William Arthur, an anti-slavery Baptist clergyman, was born in Ireland in 1796, immigrated to Canada about 1819 and finally the United States about 1821. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1843, 14 years after the birth of Chester Arthur. This made President Arthur both a U.S. and British citizen at birth.

    In 1880, while running for Vice-President with President James A. Garfield, Arthur P. Hinman made a charge that Chester Arthur was ineligible to be Vice-President because in was born in Ireland or Canada. The charge was discredited but Hinman went on to write a book called, “How a British Subject Became President of the United States” Arthur was not a natural-born citizen, but not for the reason claimed by Hinman. He was ineligible because his father was a British Subject at the time of his birth. Arthur, a lawyer, repeatedly gave false and misleading statements to the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper concerning his father’s heritage, immigration status and age. Later, Arthur burned most of his family documents. He even lied about his own age. He claimed to have been born in 1830, the date recorded on his gravestone. His attempts to conceal his father’s history suggest he was aware of his ineligibility, per Article 2, Section 1 and the Law of Nations, to be President or Vice-President.

  3. Margaret Hemenway says

    Vattelists commonly fail to mention that Vattel himself (did they read his book?) points out that the English do things differently- the very birth on the soil “naturalizes” the individual- this is our “jus soli” birthright (from English common law traditions which were carried into the colonies). They seldom refer to Presidential candidate Charles Hughes, e.g. whose father was an English immigrant and who ran against Wilson. Under the relevant immigration statute disqualifying Obama as “natural born,” Cruz appears to qualify. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 means that Obama, born in Kenya to a Kenyan (as prominent Kenyans have declared, including his own step-grandmother) was born a British subject. Cruz’s mother, unlike the young Stanley Ann Dunham, appears to have met the requisite age/residency requirements to convey her citizenship to her son– he thus emerged from the womb a US citizen and therefore a “natural born” US citizen. He did not require the process of naturalization that involves paperwork and process to make one become a US citizen. Vattelists should refocus their efforts on removing Obama for provable forgeries of key identity documents and not get vectored off by Obama supporters and other leftwingers (esp. in the liberal media) who have been baiting them into legally dubious attacks on Jindal, Rubio, Santorum, and now Ted Cruz (who hasn’t declared he’s running for President). Let’s at least hope the Cruz debate sheds some needed light on the subject and redirects attention to Obama’s actual birthplace and criminal conspiracy to cover up his Constitutional ineligibility.

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