Patricia A. O'Malley

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Patricia A. O'Malley
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​Presidential Candidates and Natural Born Citizenship: Myths and Facts
American school don’t teach this because they don’t want you to know it.
January 10, 2024


Once in a while, Americans' robust political ignorance appears again when millions whine that some candidate or another can't be president because they weren’t born in the United States.  They are wrong.


The Constitution lists three requirements to be president:

  • You must be at least 35 years old,
  • You must have lived in the US for at least 14 years,
  • And you must be a natural born citizen.

The Constitution does not say that the president must be born in the United States. 

It says that the president must be a "natural born citizen".  

(Article II, Section 1, Clause 5)  No, it is not the same thing.

Our Constitution – Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 –

gives Congress the power "To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization ..." 
For nearly 150 years, federal law has defined a "natural-born" citizen as one who is a citizen from the moment of birth, and did not become a citizen later in life.  

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, (Section 301, Paragraph e), A child born outside the US is a natural born citizen if at least one parent was a US citizen at the time of that birth.
No, not both parents.  Not if the mother is a citizen.  Only ONE parent must be a citizen to produce a natural born citizen. 

You can be born on the moon and be a natural born citizen.


American Founders and First Citizens
The Constitution’s Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 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 of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Ten of our first twelve presidents were born before the states ratified the new Constitution in 1787:
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams. Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William H. Harrison, and Zachary Taylor.

This clause also applied to every other new American who met the other qualifications at the time.

Barry Goldwater 1964
Republican Senator Barry Goldwater ran for president against Democratic incumbent Lyndon Johnson in 1964. 

Goldwater was born in Arizona in 1909 when Arizona was a US territory.  It became a state in 1912.

The Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1 says “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
So Goldwater was a natural born citizen because territories are subject to US jurisdiction.

George Romney 1968
George Romney was the Republican governor of Michigan when he ran against former Vice President Richard Nixon in the presidential primaries in 1968.  Romney was born in Mexico because his parents, who were Mormons, were there on a religious mission trip when he was born in 1907.
He was a natural born citizen because his parents were American citizens. 

His son, Mitt Romney, born in Utah, ran against Barack Obama in 2012.

John McCain 2004, 2008
Arizona Senator John McCain ran against incumbent President George W. Bush in the Republican primaries in 2004, and in the general election against Illinois Senator Barack Obama in 2008.

He was born in Panama in 1936 because his father was stationed there with the US Navy.
He was born in the Canal Zone, which was under US control, AND his parents were both US citizens

Barack Obama 2008
Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama ran against Arizona Republican Senator John McCain in 2008. 

Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961, and there is ample evidence to that event, including his birth certificate.

However, countless goofballs claimed that he was born in Kenya, because his father was born there.
Or that he couldn’t be a citizen because he had lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather for a few years while he was a child.
Or that Hawaii became a state – in 1959 – when his mother was 17 years old. 

Even though she was born in Kansas, which became a state in 1861.

Just a bunch of wishful thinking by a bunch of racists.

Ted Cruz 2016
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada in 1970. His father was a Cuban citizen and his  mother was American.
Therefore, Cruz is American because his mother was American.
He held dual citizenship until 2015 when he renounced his Canadian citizenship.
Some more goofballs claimed that the dual citizenship disqualified him.
But the Constitution does not exclude people holding dual citizenship from the presidency.

Nikki Haley 2024
Former Republican South Carolina Governor and US Ambassador to the United Nations was born in South Carolina in 1972.
Her parents immigrated to the US from India.  Her father became a citizen in 1978 and her  mother in 2003. 

Some claim that she can’t be a citizen because her parents weren’t citizens when she was born.
The Fourteenth Amendment says no such thing.
Just more racists at work.

Cenk Uygur 2024
Political broadcaster Cenk Uygur was born in Turkey in 1970. 
He immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1979.
He declared his candidacy for president as a Democrat on October 11, 2023.

Uygur says that he knows he’s not eligible, but is running as a Democrat  to be a “placeholder” for a real Democratic contender to replace President Joe Biden.
Ummm. Okay.

Several states have already rejected Uygur as a candidate because he’s a naturalized citizen, and not natural born, and therefore ineligible.  We don’t know yet whether the states will return his filing fees.

So the goofballs span the political spectrum. 

And they get away with it because American schools don’t bother to teach civics properly. 

I wish we could see the last of them.

Read the Constitution

US Citizenship and Immigration Services:  Immigration and Nationality Act
Cornell Law School:  Legal Information Institute:  Natural Born Citizen
BallotPedia:  List of registered 2024 presidential candidates
Harvard Law School:  Stephen E. Sachs, Why John McCain was a Citizen at Birth, 29 Immigr. & Nat'lity L. Rev. 623 (2008).
AP News: False claims question Haley’s eligibility to serve as US president
AP News:  Arkansas rules online news personality Cenk Uygur won’t qualify for Democratic presidential primary
Defective Teaching Methods Produce American Political Ignorance

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