Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ted Cruz Still Isn't Eligible to Be President ... Or Is He?

The Eligibility Clause of Article II states:
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.
Going back two years, I expressed the view that Ted Cruz is ineligible to be elected President of the United States. In the interim, I have written a few additional posts, including one responding to two former Solicitors General of the United States. Their joint blog post on Harvard Law Review's blog put them in the "Ted's eligible" column. I've gathered my posts in a convenient page for your reference.

For me, Cruz's nettlesome thicket is found in that first phrase, "No person except a natural born citizen[.]" Cruz was born to an American mother and Cuban expatriate father. His married parents lived in Canada at the time of his birth. In fact, Cruz held dual Canadian and US citizenship until 2014 when he surrendered his Canadian citizenship.

Now, to get into the nettles of his thicket.

Cruz, under Canadian law, was a natural born citizen of Canada at birth. But, because US law at the time of his birth so provided, he also acquired US citizenship at birth.

Now, the question that troubles me, the obstacle I see standing between Cruz and the Presidency, is whether that citizenship he acquired at birth meets the requirement that he must be a "natural born Citizen." You see, he either acquired that status because he had a natural right to it, or because his mother had a natural right to confer that status on him, or because the nation had a natural right to confer it on him. I have concluded, based on his birth outside the United States, that he is not a "natural born citizen."

I have not changed my conclusion. I am, however, giving the possibility that he is eligible one last probing. Let me explain a dilemma, and ask your assistance.

Allow me to back into the discussion this way:  I am a citizen of the United States. I know that I am. But, how do I know it? 
I am a lawyer by trade, and like most lawyers, I tend to examine things through the lens of the law. In this instance, I examine the question of my citizenship through that same lens, and conclude that I am a citizen. In this case, the lens of the law is tinted with statutory, constitutional, and historical tints.

If only everyone could agree with the easy simplicity of constitutional text.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution says that I am a citizen

It says, all persons (I'm one of the those), born or naturalized in the United States (I was born there), and subject to the jurisdiction thereof (since I am not part of a foreign diplomatic corps here on service to that nation, and since I am not part of an enrolled Indian tribe, I am subject to its jurisdiction) are citizens of the United States and the State in which they reside.

A federal statute also says that I am a citizen

Title 8 USC 1401 provides several categories of persons who are "nationals and citizens of the United States at birth[,]" including "person[s] born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof[.]" As I mentioned above, I am one of those folks, so I am a citizen of the USA by operation of 8 USC 1401. 

But, suppose that Congress had never enacted that federal statute, 8 USC 1401. Would I be a citizen of the USA? Yes, in fact, the separate operation of the Fourteenth Amendment makes me a citizen, whether the Congress adopted a law saying so or not. 

Our common law tradition says that I am a citizen.

Well, then, suppose that the statute had not been enacted and the Fourteenth Amendment had not been ratified and made part of the Constitution. Would I be a citizen of the USA? Again, yes, I would still be a citizen of the United States. As my prior posts indicate, the States that make up the Union -- Louisiana excepted -- adopted the common law of England when they were admitted to the Union (or in the case of the original thirteen colonies, when they created it). Under English common law, a person born on English soil was a subject of the Crown (unless their parents were present in England on diplomatic service from another nation). 

Translated to America, this concept of jus soli meant that, born on the soil of the Commonwealth of Virginia, one was a Virginia citizen. So, even in the absence of any provision of the Constitution or statute, I would be a citizen of whatever State in which I was born (New Mexico, by the way). Prior to ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, State citizenship in any State of the Union equated with citizenship of the United States.

In that period, prior to the Fourteenth Amendment and after the ratification of the Constitution, Congress had a constitutionally-derived power to "naturalize" citizens. Naturalization means to make one a citizen who was not born one. The States granted that power to the Congress in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. When Congress first exercised that power, in the naturalization act of 1790, it adopted a provision of the law that made certain children born to American parents abroad "natural born citizens." Five years later, Congress repealed that law and crafted a new Naturalization Act, but did not again employ the phrasing "natural born citizen" to characterize the citizenship status of children entitled to be citizens despite their birth abroad. 

So, then, Congress took one foray into the field of granting "natural born citizen" status via statute, and has never done so since then. That does not necessarily answer the question of eligibility because it does not necessarily answer the question of whether there is a difference between a "natural born citizen" and "citizen at birth" (which is the statutory phrasing from the Immigration and Nationality Act).

The Constitution would resolve this lingering doubt of mine if, but only if, it stated a governing principle in an indisputable manner. I happen to think that it does so when it states the requirement of being a "natural born citizen" for purposes of presidential eligibility. To my mind, that leaves anything other than citizenship consequent to birth on our soil as different from "natural born citizenship." The problem, however, is that all manner of folk, including other legal "experts," treat the principal citizenship statute (8 USC 1401) as conferring "natural born citizenship" on those children born abroad who are treated in the statute as being "citizens at birth."

If we go back to our lineal legal ascendants, the English, their Parliament asserted and exercised a power regarding naturalization of persons born abroad as English subjects. Remember, English law on creation of the subject-Crown relationship required only that a person was born on English soil (except when parents were present in English under legal privilege by, for example, service as emissaries of a foreign power). Yet, before we pulled ourselves up from the English garden and replanted ourselves as the united States of America, Parliament had asserted and exercise a power to grant to certain persons born abroad from English the status of natural born subjects.

So then, the question might be answered by assuming that the power asserted by the Parliament to make natural born subjects of persons that, prior to Acts of Parliament, would only ever be denizens of the Crown was a power natural to, attendant to, the legislative function. If that were the case, then when we stood legislatures up in the united States of America, there would be no reason to suppose that the same power exercised by Parliament -- making natural born subject out of foreign born denizens -- could not be exercised by the State legislatures. Of course, that still does not answer whether a like power would be found in the grant of legislative authority to the Congress by the States in the Constitution.

Remember, Article I provides only that Congress shall have power to make a uniform rule for naturalization. It does not provide by express terms a power to make anyone a natural born citizen, nor a power to define the precise terms of the Constitution. But we could assume -- and based on "scholarly" blog posts it appears that many do -- that the States had the power to do so as independent sovereign States. We could then further assume -- as those scholarly blog posts do -- that the States concluded that they should grant to the Congress that power and that they did so by the otherwise seemingly unambiguous "Naturalization Clause."

The Governator Question: If Congress Can Make Persons Born Outside the United States "Natural Born Citizens," What Would Prevent Congress from Making Governor Schwarzenegger One?

For those who are willing to take each of these assumptive steps (leaps, in my judgment), there really is a further problem that they must own up to as a consequence of their approach to the construction of this constitutional provision. If the Congress garnered from the States via the "Uniform Rule of Naturalization" Clause a power to grant "natural born citizen" status to certain persons born abroad, what limiting factor prevents Congress from expanding the categorical definitions from time to time, as need, or whim, direct? I refer to this as the Governator Question.

Suppose that a Republican majority in the House and the Senate passed a law tomorrow adding a new section to the Immigration and Nationality Act. That provision, the Governator Clause, would permit any person that has acquired citizenship by naturalization, that has continuously resided in the United States for twenty years or more, and that has been elected to a State wide office at least once, to be treated, for purposes of law, as a "Natural Born Citizen." The effect of such a law would be to make Arnold Schwarzenegger eligible to be elected President.

Perhaps that really is what our Constitution has done. Perhaps the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 actually crafted the "Uniform Rule of Naturalization" Clause with all these sequelae and consequences in mind. Perhaps the States in convention to ratify the new Constitution really contemplated the surrender of these affects of sovereignty to the federal government.

If those who can show these discussions took place would kindly do so, I could wholeheartedly support Ted Cruz. 
If those who can show that the Convention, and the State ratifying conventions, conducted such votes would kindly do so, I could wholeheartedly support Ted Cruz. If those who can show that the participants in these conventions held these intentions would kindly do so, I could wholeheartedly support Ted Cruz.

I await proffers of such evidence as might be forthcoming.