natural born citizen

The American people should have the right to choose their leader, no matter where the candidate is born. 

The natural-born citizen requirement states that only people who are citizens of the United States by birth may become President. No matter how the public votes, if the candidate was not born an American, he or she cannot be President. Article II of the Constitution states that all candidates for president be natural-born U.S. citizens, and in 1804 the Twelfth Amendment extends the same requirement to all candidates for vice president.  When our constitution was written in Philadelphia back in 1787, as well as when it was entered into effect in December of 1791, we had recently seceded from British colonial rule, and there was actually very legitimate reason to fear that members of the European nobility might attempt to regain influence in the newly formed United States Of America by sending people here to run as candidates for various offices here.  This was still a legitimate concern in 1803 when the Twelfth Amendment was written, as well as the following year when it was entered into effect.

The natural-born citizen requirement and the Equal Opportunity to Govern Amendment

There are quite a few issues that would be involved in eliminating the natural-born citizen requirement because there are no previous legal precedents for overturning any clauses of Article II of our constitution. However, back in 2003, Senator Orrin Hatch proposed the Equal Opportunity To Govern Amendment, which was intended to replace the natural-born citizen requirement for future candidates for president and vice president with a requirement that all future candidates merely have been naturalized citizens for at least 20 years prior to the time that they begin to run for president or vice president. In 2004, Senator Hatch’s Equal Opportunity To Govern Amendment never got passed preliminary discussions and hearings in Congress, however, no one proposed that this proposal would, in fact, be unconstitutional.  More recently, in 2015 a handful of members of both houses of Congress formed the Equal Opportunity To Govern Campaign, which is intended to continue to explore attempting to remove the “natural born citizen” requirement for future presidential and vice-presidential candidates.  Democrats and Republicans are equally represented within the Equal Opportunity To Govern Campaign, as they feel that removing the “natural born citizen” requirement could potentially benefit both parties in future years, removing that requirement could in fact potentially benefit all Americans at some point in the future.

Politicians who acquired U.S. citizenship through naturalization

So far, in the first one and a half decades of In the 21st century, we’ve seen a number of the prominent state as well as federal politicians who were born overseas. 

California’s 38th governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in the city of Graz, Austria in 1947, and he first arrived in the U.S. in 1968, and he became a naturalized citizen here in 1983. The former Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros- Lehtinen (2011 – 2013) was first elected to the House of Representatives in a special election in August 1989, after her predecessor Claude Pepper died in office.  Ileana Ros Ros y Adato was actually born in Havana, Cuba in 1952, and her family emigrated to Florida in 1959.  She had served in both houses of Florida’s state government prior to the August 1989 special election in which she was elected to the House Of Representatives (she changed her name when she married Dexter Lehtinen in 1984.)

In the present day, our current Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power was born in 1970 in Dublin, Ireland.  Samantha Power’s family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1979, and she became a naturalized citizen here in 1993.  Our current Secretary Of The Interior Sally Jewel was born in London, the U.K. in 1956, her family moved to Washington state in 1959.  Boris Bershteyn had served as the Obama administration’s general counsel for the Federal Office Of Management And Budget from 2011 to 2012, and in 2013, he was  The Administrator Of The Office Of Information And Regulatory Affairs. 

Boris Bershteyn was born in Kyiv in 1977, which at the time was one of the largest cities in the former Soviet Union, which was our Cold War-era rival during his early childhood years. As of 2016, we currently have one (1) U.S. Senator who was not born a U.S. citizen (Mazie Hirono, one of the Senators from Hawaii was born in Fukushima, Japan in 1947),  and in addition to Ileana Ros- Lehtinen  we currently have four (4) other Representatives who were not born U.S. citizens, including Ted Lieu (Representative from California, his birth citizenship was Taiwanese), Raul Ruiz (Representative from California, his birth citizenship was Mexican), Albio Sires (Representative from New Jersey, his childhood citizenship was also Cuban) and Norma Torres (Representative from California, her birth citizenship was Guatemalan.) Joseph Cao was born in Saigon, Vietnam (then “South Vietnam”) in 1967, and his family moved to Texas in 1975 after the fall of Saigon.  Joseph Cao served as one of the Representatives from Louisiana from 2009 through 2011, and he may run Senate later this year.

It’s time to repeal the natural-born citizen clause

In today’s world, when we have impressively little to worry about the families of the European monarchs or foreign aristocracy attempting to undermine the entire authority and legitimacy of our Federal government by sending people here with the intent that they will attempt to run for political office, why do we still have the natural-born citizen requirement for our presidential and for our vice-presidential candidates. 

Lastly, I would like to point out here that while the Equal Opportunity To Govern Campaign is comprised equally of prominent members of both the Democrats and the Republicans, as of March 2016, there are no members of any of the “third” parties involved in this committee.  Aside from potentially mutually benefiting both of our two major parties, removing the natural-born citizen requirement for all future presidential and vice-presidential candidates would effectively also benefit all of the “third” parties here too. Immigrants serve our country every day: in the military, in our communities, even in Congress. It’s only fair that we should give foreign-born Americans the same rights that we give everyone else. It’s time to repeal the natural-born citizen clause.    

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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