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.

    • Rob C says

      The INA which uses the mother’s citizenship to convey citizenship to her child if the father is a foreigner is naturalization law and naturalization law can only naturalize ( Article I Section 8 only gives Congress the enumerated power to pass uniform naturalization laws. ) ..

      Vattelists ? LOL
      Vattel ( That had a legal training. ) stated that the English naturalized the children of aliens born in England. Vattel stated that the children followed the condition of the father.
      Investigating it further one will find that the English only naturalized certain children born in England of certain aliens. ( Reading Blackstone’s commentaries you will find that…. ) The aliens in amity that Gray refers to in US vs WKA were known to the king to be “alien friends”( So no illegal aliens and by contrast alien enemies which would not just be the children of ambassadors , ministers, etc..In the Calvin case Lord Coke states that infidels could most likely not convert to Christianity. The aliens in amity were European Christians but could not be infidels..) and the king issued letters of patent to the the alien parents first had to become a denizen and then only the children of aliens
      The English adopted Roman civil law and since they naturalized the children of certain aliens that fit a certain criteria. Jus soli is actually a form of naturalization.
      The English also naturalized the children of English subjects that were born outside England. This would be jus sanguinis and so jus sanguinis is also a form of naturalization.
      Now to the USA.
      The Constitution in Article I section 8 only gives the Congress the enumerated power to pass uniform naturalization laws and naturalization law can only naturalize.
      Cruz is no more eligible ( Because Cruz has to rely on naturalization law to even be a citizen.) than he could flap his arms and fly to the moon.

      George Washington checked out a copy of Vattel’s Law of Nations , forgot to return it and that copy was recently found and returned to the library and Ben Franklin had 3 copies.
      In the Law of Nations the definition for native and indigene( Which was translated into English as “natural born citizen”. ) states that a native and indigene is one “born in country to parents who were it’s citizens”. Which is of course what a native and/or what an indigene/indigenous citizen would be. A person that naturally is a citizen of the native country of his/her parents.
      Several USSC cases include Vattel’s # 212 as part of the ruling.
      That includes for instance “The Venus”, “Minor vs Happersett” ( Where it is paraphrased. ) and those cases are cited in other rulings including US vs WKA.

      Blackstone indicated that the English ( A mixture of the Saxtons, Normans, Britons, Celts, etc. which were tribes that were actually just extended families that were first clans. So family ties especially through the father would be the first indicator of membership in the tribe. Being born on tribal land would be the next. Anyone not a part of the tribe and/or born outside tribal lands would be viewed as an outsider and with natural suspicion. The Normans From the Normandy region of France. for instance invaded England in 1066 and conquered the Saxtons,etc. . The Saxtons were originally from the Saxony region of Germany.) did change aspects of Roman Civil Law. So no wonder that the English Civil laws were a bit different. However being based on the family associations formed in the tribe any ol’ outsider couldn’t just emigrate into England and drop a baby and then have the English just automatically view all children of all aliens and foreigners as “aliens in amity”. ) had changed the Roman Civil law.

      Modern people just want everything to be “PC” and PC according to their version of PC.
      The original citizens had just finished fighting the English so that they could found the USA from the original 13 colonies. Those that fought on the side of the Revolutionaries were seen as patriots while those that remained loyal to the English were viewed with suspicion and ostracized. ANYONE with British subject status ( The Declaration of Independence is viewed as THE time when the once British subjects became American citizens by
      en masse naturalization. So Cruz would be more like the original naturalized citizen since he renounced his Canadian citizenship just before he announced his run for the WH. The requirement is for a natural born citizen. The original citizens needed an exclusionary clause inserted into Article so that they didn’t need to be natural born citizens to legally be POTUS.) would be an alien or a foreigner.

      Vattell merely translated the Law of Nations from an earlier text.
      Historically the concept goes back to the Romans ( And the Greeks before them. ) that viewed the children of citizen parents as the highest form of citizenship because those children of those citizen parents would be naturally members of those tribes which later became city states.
      They would of course been “natives” and “indigenous” to the Roman and Greek tribes so it is no wonder that the children of tribe members would be seen as natural citizens because they were born into those tribes rather than being children of a foreigner or foreigners.

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