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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Of birthers and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio



Ted Cruz's entry into the presidential race raised an old question: Can the Canadian born Republican even be president?

Most experts say yes, but that won't stop so-called birthers from pushing the issue. Expect it to bubble up, too, when Marco Rubio jumps in the race.

In 2011, the Tampa Bay Times wrote how so-called birthers were going after Rubio because his parents were not U.S. citizens until 1975, four years after Rubio was born at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami.

Birthers say Rubio is ineligible under Article 2 of the Constitution, which says "no person except a natural born citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President."

The rub is that "natural born citizen" was never defined. The birthers rely on writings at the time of the formation of the republic and references in court cases since then to contend that "natural born" means a person born to U.S. citizens.

From our 2011 story:

Birthers rely on various passages to back up their argument. One is the treatise The Law of Nations by Swiss philosopher Emer de Vattel, which they say influenced the founding fathers. "The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens," Vattel wrote.

They also cite the U.S. Supreme Court, which in the 1875 case Minor vs. Happersett, used the term "natural born citizen" in reference to persons who were born in the United States, of U.S.-citizen parents.

"The arguments aren't crazy," said Georgetown law professor Lawrence Solum, an expert in constitutional theory. But, he added, "the much stronger argument suggests that if you were born on American soil that you would be considered a natural born citizen."

Solum said that became clearer with the 14th Amendment, which conferred citizenship on former slaves born in the United States (now a contentious issue involving the children of illegal immigrants.) Birthers say the amendment fortifies their case because it does not use "natural" born.

"It's a little confusing, but most scholars think it's a pretty unusual position for anyone to think the natural born citizen clause would exclude someone born in the U.S.," said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta who specializes in immigration and citizenship.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 2:56pm]


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