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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio seeks to dismiss court challenge to his eligibility to be president

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to guests Wednesday during a campaign rally at the Water Dog Grill in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

[Getty Images]

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to guests Wednesday during a campaign rally at the Water Dog Grill in Mount Pleasant, S.C.



Donald Trump in Pensacola on Wednesday night continued to question Canadian-born Ted Cruz’s eligibility to be president, wondering if Cruz were to win the nomination and a court ruled against him, “What do you do? Concede the election to Hillary Clinton or crazy Bernie?"

The jabs against Cruz, shadowed by some other Republican presidential candidates, have triggered serious talk about settling the ambiguity contained the Constitution and legal rulings.

And that has ramifications for another Trump rival: Marco Rubio.

This week Rubio sought to have a court complaint in Florida against him thrown out, saying the argument “would jeopardize centuries of precedent and deem at least six former presidents ineligible for office.” (Last week he told reporters of Cruz, "I don't think that's an issue.")

Rubio was born in Miami in 1971. But Rubio's Cuban immigrant parents did not become U.S. citizens until 1975.

That’s convinced so-called birthers to conclude 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 questions arose in 2011 when Rubio was being talked about as Mitt Romney’s running mate.

"It's nothing to do with him personally. But you can't change the rules because you like a certain person. Then you have no rules," New Jersey lawyer Mario Apuzzo told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011.

From the report:

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."

Other legal experts agree.

Now, Trump, who famously questioned the authenticity Barack Obama’s birth certificate, has pushed the issue to the fore, even goading Cruz by playing Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. at a rally.

Sen. John McCain, whose eligibility was questioned because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, told reporters this week that the “natural born” language should be clarified. He was speaking in the context of Cruz but when told about Rubio’s situation, McCain said it should apply to any case.

Rubio’s status has already been challenged in Florida.

A Fort Lauderdale man, Michael Voeltz, filed a complaint against Rubio and Cruz in December, arguing they are “naturalized citizens, or at the very least, simply fail to comply with the common law Supreme Court established definition of natural born citizen …”

Rubio filed a motion to dismiss on Jan. 11. The 34-page filing, heretofore unknown, shows that Rubio’s legal team spent considerable time researching the issue. “Senator Rubio is a natural born citizen of the United States and he is eligible to be President of the United States,” it concludes.

In 2011, Rubio played down the talk about eligibility.

“I’m not going to answer that because I’m not thinking about it,” he told the Tampa Bay Times.  “All I care about is my qualifications to serve in the Senate. I just don’t think it’s relevant.”

To press their case, birthers dug up Rubio’s parents immigration papers. While the eligibility question is unresolved, in some eyes, the file (which the Times independently obtained) confirmed his parents were given citizenship in 1975. Rubio at the time said he did not know why his parents waited, though experts told the Times that it wasn’t uncommon for some immigrants to wait.

The immigration dossier broke some news: It showed Rubio’s parents came to the United States in 1956, not after Fidel Castro took over, as Rubio’s his official biography noted and he repeatedly implied when talking about his “exile” parents.

"Anyone who can't return to their natural country is an exile,” Rubio said when asked about the dates, “if you can't return for political reasons."

Times staff writer Michael Auslen contributed reporting from Pensacola.



[Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2016 11:23am]


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