Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Natural

There's currently a lawsuit filed that claims President-Elect Barack Obama is not eligble to be President because his father being Kenyan means Obama isn't a natural born citizen, as required by the Constitution. The case (on appeal to the Supreme Court, which is not likely to be hear it) hinges on the fact that "natural born citizen" never seems to have been defined. It would, in a way, be nice for the Supreme Court to weigh in on this, for the sake of precedent.

Here's what I'd consider a reasonable set of criteria to be eligible for the Presidency:

  • Either:
    1. at least one parent was a U.S. citizen at time of birth; or
    2. the person was born in the United States of America (yes, I'm excluding territories, but not embassies).
  • The person does not currently hold citizenship for any country other than the United States of America.
  • If the person has the right to citizenship of any other country by birth or circumstance, that right must be alienated.

What I find particularly interesting is that all of these criteria could be established by a Supreme Court ruling in regards to President-Elect Obama's eligibility.

Feel free to weigh in. Abusive comments will be deleted. Links to informative sites are welcome, but comments linking to propaganda (on whatever side) will be deleted. Yes, I get to decide where the line is between "informative" and "propaganda", but then it's my blog. Blogger hands them out for free, so go ahead and start your own if you disagree. I'll keep deleted comments available for re-posting if you want to try to convince me that something shouldn't have been deleted.


Ted said...

The choice facing the Supreme Court boils down to civil unrest to protect the Constitution or civil war to proceed to ‘inaugurate’ a non-”natural born citizen”.

Anonymous said...

Mike - At one time I was responsible for making decisions regarding citizenship for the Social Security Admin. We weren't concerned with the definition of "natural born", but anyone who could produce a birth record from any state or US territory and prove it was theirs with other docs, was found to be a US citizen.

I would not exclude territories, especially territories which later became states.

I would disqualify persons holding dual citizenship, unless the other country does not permit renunciation.


Mike Marsh said...

pogo - I have no real reason to exclude territories. The simplest wording seemed to me to exclude people born in territories, but it wasn't particularly my intent.

Ted - In this case, it seems the required choice for the Supreme Court is not to hear the case, since from what I've read it's an issue of fact, not of law, and that was decided adequately by a lower court. I'm certainly no expert, though. I can understand being unhappy with the result of the election, but it seems a pretty big stretch to claim a US-born person with a US-citizen parent isn't a natural-born citizen.

Anonymous said...

There have been stories in the news periodically of pregnant non-citizens desperate to get to the U.S. in time to give birth so that their children would be U.S. citizens, with all the attendant 'rights'. I thought that meant that if you were *born* in the U.S., irrespective of your parent's citizenship, you were a citizen.

This may not be true, of course, because I heard about it on TV :-)

Mike Marsh said...

I believe that's correct. I'd personally favor a change in the law that says if you're here illegally, then your children born here don't get citizenship. Maybe tweak that slightly to the mother needing to be here legally. That may be too difficult to enforce, though, without leading to racial profiling and driving immigrants (legal or not) to less-safe birthing locations than hospitals.

There are also subtler issues of legal status, such as someone who has overstayed a visa but is in the process of getting it renewed or changing to a new category. This happens somewhat frequently with foreign students, from what I've heard. Possibly as a result of bureaucratic SNAFUs at their universities.

For presidential purposes, it's not clear whether "U.S. citizen by birth" and "natural born citizen" are synonymous. Intuitively, it seems like they should be, but there's a lot about our laws and Constitutional interpretation that isn't intuitive.

Julie said...

I'm not really qualified to chime in, but I agree with you. Also, I read in the wiki ( that both of a person's parents must be citizens of a country in order to be considered a natural born citizen. Which freaked me out because my mom was not yet a naturalized citizen when my brothers and I were born, so . . . we're not natural born citizens?

Now, you can opine on my query: I paid off a bank-issued credit card, plus $3. The bank issued a check refunding the $3. I didn't realize there was a 90-day limit on the check, so when I tried to deposit it into that same bank, a stop-payment was issued on the check, and I was fined $10. Am I right in flipping out?

Mike Marsh said...

I don't think any of us here are lawyers or Constitutional scholars, so your opinion is as welcome as anyone's! It sounds like you're in the same boat as Obama—born in the U.S. with one citizen parent, so you're probably eligible to be President (once you hit 35, but we won't go there). Some of the more Byzantine wording of the early laws quoted in that article (which I hadn't seen previously) are probably due to the fact that only men could vote or hold office, but the father isn't the parent that you can establish unambiguously. These days, those laws would likely (hopefully) be written differently.

As for the check, that's incredibly annoying. Did the check have an expiration date on it? I thought the usual term was more like a year, or at least six months. I'd complain to the bank. If you've been with them for awhile and have a good record of payment and positive balances, they'll probably waive the fine. A teller probably won't be able to do that, though, so you'll want to try to talk to the branch manager, or at least someone a little higher up. Good luck!