States Should Enforce “Natural Born Citizen” Requirement

The Constitution requires the president to be a “natural born citizen”. However, the term is not defined in the Constitution. Neither has a law or court ruling been made more exactly delineating the constraints of the term. The purpose of this post is not to re-hash the arguments about what “natural born citizen” means, but to outline a process that generates a legal standard for how it is enforced. The States are key to this process.

This proposal is to have one or more states enforce via legislation the implementation of the requirement in their state, according to their understanding of the requirement. If a candidate or political party sues the state, the Supreme Court will review the law and decide whether the details of the law are constitutional, according to the original intent of the framers. By this means, we can produce a general standard for the requirement that all states could adopt.

Simply stated, I believe the Framers intended for both parents to be 100% American and the child should be born in the US, though some additional details should be considered. For over 200 years there was no controversy about this requirement. The controversy arose only in recent years when persons with very questionable qualifications began to become candidates.

However, legally, it does not matter what I believe or what any other non-expert, non-authority believes. I would like to see the states and courts work out what enforcement should be, according to the Constitution and the original intent. Let them do their duty and commit what they decide to law. That would start the process.

Today, there is a large constituency of people who corrupt the original meaning of the term, because they want to promote the internationalization of America or for whatever ideological or financial reason. Then, most of the population has not researched the issue and is just not well informed about the original meaning of the term. Many of them have been influenced by the media, which generally supports the abrogation of the constitutional requirement via manipulation of public opinion rather than using the legal system.

The term comes from the philosophy of natural law, on which our Constitution is based. To understand the meaning of the term and the Framers’ original intent, one should look at how it was used in the literature about natural law.

Article II, Section 1 (excerpt)

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

There are several ways that a legal definition of the term could be obtained.

  • The clearest and most straightforward way would be to amend the Constitution to better define the term, but at this time it is unlikely to pass Congress.

  • Congress could also pass a law outlining the requirements placed on candidates, but this is also highly unlikely at present for political reasons.

  • The Supreme Court could rule on requirements are for candidates. However, all attempts so far have been rejected by the courts, generally due to the plaintiff not having legal “standing”.

  • Finally, the States could enact a law requiring candidates to meet their natural-born citizenship requirements to be listed on the state ballot. (See the first reference listed at the bottom by Mario Apuzzo.)

The states enact many laws that determine how different aspects of the Constitution are implemented in their states. For one example, just consider the many gun control laws that have been made by states that delineate the limits of the Second Amendment. The “right to bear arms” is also not defined in the Constitution. Nevertheless, all the states pass numerous laws that constrain your right to bear arms. The courts review these laws for constitutionality. So, why should not the states do the same with the natural-born-citizen qualification for the presidency, delineating the exact qualifications with respect to the Constitution?

With states, we have 50 chances of passing a law that outlines the Framers’ original intent and requires candidates to comply. We don’t have to depend on a politically disinterested Congress alone. This would likely be very controversial and states may enact different versions of how the requirement will be implemented. However, this would just cause it to go quickly to the Supreme Court for adjudication. Then presumably there would then be no question of “standing” if a candidate or political party were to file such a lawsuit. So, this could be a means of obtaining a ruling on a more precise meaning of the term. It should be according to original intent, but also in the modern context of citizenship laws.

Such a procedure would also bypass the personal characteristics of any one candidate. When conservative activists pointed to Obama’s lack of constitutional qualification to be president, they were immediately accused of “racism”. That was a tremendous distraction, but would not be a problem if states pass a general law. The state law would be subject to review by the courts, rather than trying to have a specific candidate disqualified. The focus should be on developing a clear legal standard, which applies equally to every would-be candidate.

Related Posts:
Nikki Haley is NOT A Natural Born Citizen
What is the Definition of “Natural Born Citizen”?

Other References:
The States Have the Constitutional Power to Pass Legislation Prescribing Presidential Ballot Access Requirements Including Determining Whether a Candidate Meets the Eligibility Requirements of Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 by Mario Apuzzo
The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of the “natural born Citizen” Term In Our United States Constitution by CDR Charles F. Kerchner, Jr. (Retired)

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29 thoughts on “States Should Enforce “Natural Born Citizen” Requirement”

    1. Doesn’t seem relevant, reading just the summary. Ordinary citizenship is not the issue. Natural born citizenship is a technical term used in the philosophy of natural law, upon which the Constitution was based. It is not the same as ordinary citizenship. In any case, the point of this post is not to argue without end what a NBC is, but how to create a legal standard that delineates the specific requirements. It seems the states could help in creating this legal standard. I like having comments, but would hope they would be to point and not just a distraction.

  1. No they can’t. The definition the founding father’s based the requirement “natural born citizen” means at the time a child is born, his/her father must be a citizen of the United States. Children inherent their fathers citizenship.

    During the time the Constitution was written and ratified the father was the head of the household. Congress has been trying to change the definition since before Bush.

    The attachment is the legal dictionary used at the time for legal definitions. And a page from it, at the top of the page defining the different types of citizenship.

    Obama, Rubio, Cruz and there are others that do not hold Constitutional “natural born citizenship”. It’s not because of where they were born It’s because, Obama’s father was never a citizen, Rubio’s fathers didn’t apply for citizenship until years after he was born and Rubio was then grandfathered into his his father’s US naturalization, Cruz father did not apply for citizenship until Cruz decided to run for the presidency.

    None of the bills congress has attempted to pass changing the definition of “natural born citizen” have ever passed. Congress has never gone through the amendment process to change the requirements of Article II, Section 1, paragraph 5, of The Bill of Rights of the Constitution. If the house of representatives doesn’t go to the SCOTUS if necessary, we could be looking at Xi Jinping as our president in 2024.

    1. You are missing the point. It’s not about us non-experts determining whether someone is a natural born citizen or not, it’s about starting a process so that the states and court system and maybe Congress develop legal requirements according to original intent to demonstrate who is a natural born citizen for the purpose of qualifying for the presidency.

  2. Some courts already have defined the meaning of natural-born citizen.

    Various courts, for example, already ruled President Obama was a natural-born citizen because he was born in the United States.

    Other courts already ruled Cruz is a natural-born citizen because he was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth.

      1. It looks like the spam filter doesn’t like links.

        Indiana state court ruled President Obama is a natural-born citizen in Ankeny v. Governor of State of Indiana, 916 N.E.2d 678 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009).

        Pennsylvania state court ruled Cruz is a natural-born citizen in Elliot v. Cruz, No. 77 M.D. 2016 (Penn., Mar. 10, 2016).

        Any search engine should be able to locate the courts’ rulings.

        So the system works.

  3. My whole point is that the there is no general standard for how the requirement should be implemented. My proposal is for states to create their own general law.

    Also, that it is quite useless for non-experts to argue endlessly about this topic on the Internet. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life arguing with Internet users. I just want to make the suggestion that the states start legislating a general standard that can pass inspection by the Supreme court if it is possible to do that. It seems to me that it should be possible for states to do this.

    These cases that you mention are from state courts and my guess is do not set a precedent in other states. Other states may see it differently. Neither has it been tested in the Supreme Court. Even if a state court has ruled, that doesn’t mean that the state can’t afterwards pass a law that supersedes the court ruling.

    These two cases are for specific situations and do not create a general standard for who should be qualified to be President that can be applied in every state.

    Ankeny v. Governor of State of Indiana

    Carmon ELLIOTT, Petitioner v. Ted CRUZ, Respondent.

    I am about to go on a trip, so I don’t have time to read about these two cases, closely. But my point is I shouldn’t have to. Legislatures and the courts should do the work, not me and you. Nothing is going to be resolved in this issue on the Internet. We can inform people, though, and motivate them to push their state legislators to act.

  4. At the time of the ratification of the 14th amendment, the 1866 Congressional Record, on page 2890, the senator from Michigan Jacob stated babies born here of ambassadors, business men and aliens are NOT citizens.

    1. I looked to see if I can find it. This Government Publishing Office (GPO) website says the Congressional record first started in 1873. So, I think any page from 1866 must be fake. I wouldn’t matter even if it did exist, because the Supreme Court ruled on this.

      GPO Completes Digitization of the Historical Congressional Record

      WASHINGTON – In cooperation with the Library of Congress, the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) has completed the digitization of all historical issues of the Congressional Record dating to the first appearance of this publication on March 5, 1873. The final release of this project, covering the period 1873-1890, is being made available to the public free of charge on GPO’s govinfo

  5. Roger, if you text me I’ll send you a photo of Congressional Record (previously called the “Congressional Globe” in 1866 but holds the same function) page 2890. Douglas Gibbs has my phone number.

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