Unlike the situations that arose when George W. Romney, John McCain, and President Obama ran for President, there is appears to a legitimate question that Ted Cruz may not be qualified to be President of the United States. In reality however, there isn’t any real question. The analysis is a bit more complex for Mr. Cruz than for the other individuals, but in the end all appearances are that Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen. The analysis begins with the basics: to become a citizen by operation of birth, or a natural born citizen, one must either 1) have been born in the United States (or certain other territories) and subject to the laws of the United States; or 2) had a parent or parents who were U.S. citizens at the time of birth and meet certain other requirements. (Note the “subject to the laws of the United States” serves to prevent the children of diplomats from becoming citizens by birth, the children of illegal aliens are still subject to the laws of the United States because they don’t have diplomatic immunity).
First, examining the case of George W. Romney, he was born in Colonia Dublan, Mexico to two U.S. citizens who were married. Under law he is a citizen by operation of that birth as long as at least one parent had ever resided in the United States or its outlying possessions. In his case, both were born and had resided in the United States. Likewise, John McCain is a U.S. citizen under the same law as he is the child of two U.S. citizens who were married. He can also claim citizenship as a person born in the Panama Canal Zone before October 1, 1979. This means both John McCain and George Romney were citizens by operation of birth, or natural born citizens. Thus, there is no legitimate question as to either of these two men.
President Obama is even more obviously a citizen due to the fact that he was born in Hawaii. However, even if he had been born in Kenya, Indonesia, or wherever, he would still be a natural born citizen. A person who is born to a married couple with one parent who is a foreign national and one parent who is a U.S. citizen becomes a U S. citizen by operation of that birth, so long as the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States for a period of 5 years, including at least 2 years after 14 years of age. Thus, President Obama’s mother qualifies him as a natural born citizen, no matter where he was born.
This is true, in part, because there is no evidence that President Obama’s mother had ever lost her U.S. citizenship. However, recently there has been some question as to whether Ted Cruz’s mother was still a U.S. citizen at the time that Mr. Cruz was born. The question arises because of evidence that Ted Cruz’s mother was registered to vote in Canadian elections in 1974, meaning she may have been actively exercising her Canadian citizenship while living in Canada. So was she a U.S. citizen at the time Ted Cruz was born?
Almost definitely, but it really depends on the facts. First, contrary to popular belief, the U.S. does recognize dual citizenship. So the mere fact that she may have become a Canadian citizen does not per se revoke her U.S. citizenship. However, it might have. Under 8 U.S.C. § 1418, a U.S. Citizen will lose their citizenship if they perform certain acts with the intention of relinquishing their U.S. citizenship. First on that list of ways to lose one’s citizenship is “obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application…” So if Ted Cruz’s mother had become a Canadian citizen and had done so with the intent to relinquish her U.S. citizenship, then Ted Cruz would not have been born a U.S. citizen. But did she?
It appears she did not. As the Cruz campaign has put forward, it is highly unlikely that Ted Cruz’s mother ever became a Canadian citizen, despite the voter registration. The campaign cites a number of factors, including the fact that by the time Ted Cruz was born his mother had not lived in Canada long enough to become a Canadian citizen. Further, even if she had there is absolutely no evidence that she did so with the intent to relinquish her U.S. citizenship. And this lack of evidence matters. Under the law, a person challenging the citizenship of a purported U.S. citizen has the burden of proving the person is not a citizen. So a lack of evidence that she didn’t relinquish her citizenship is not enough. Someone would have to challenge Ted Cruz’s citizenship, then prove 1) at the time of Cruz’s birth his mother had become a Canadian citizen; and 2) that she did so with the intention of relinquishing her U.S. citizenship. The first element appears to be factually false, and therefore not provable. The second element is virtually unprovable even if documents supported the first element. So Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen until someone can prove otherwise, and there appears to be no proof otherwise.
While this attack on Ted Cruz’s qualifications to run for President actually has more to it than the frivolous attacks on President Obama’s qualifications, the reality is there is no merit to these attacks either. So move on, there is nothing to see here.