Let's Put an End to this Birther Nonsense about Ted Cruz

(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Image: AP_315869267201
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a campaign stop on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Dorchester, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

The past eight or so years should have proven conclusively that the various strains of birthers out there do not know about which they speak. Nevertheless, this has not stopped them from continuing in their ways. The latest speculation I’ve seen surrounds the Naturalization Act of 1790 passed by the First Congress. Here is the relevant portion:

And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States….

Birthers have been asserting that, since Rafael Cruz* did not become an American citizen until 2005, and while he was in Canada with his wife, during which time Ted was born, he became an Canadian citizen. This, in the Birthers’ view, disqualifies Ted from this Presidency, as “the Founders” never would have intended someone like him becoming President

But look closer at the bolder portion. It never says that the father has to be a citizen of the United States at the time the child is born. All it says is that citizenship “shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States.” It is indisputable that Rafael Cruz was in the United States for a period of time prior to both Ted’s birth and his marriage to native born American citizen Eleanor Elizabeth Darragh Wilson in 1969. He fled Cuba in 1957 at the age of 18, arriving in Texas. There, he attended the University of Texas, graduating with a degree in mathematics in 1961. He even married his first wife there, Julia Ann Garza, in 1959. They later divorced, but not before he had two daughters with her. He was also granted political asylum in 1961 upon his graduation from UT.


In other words, Ted Cruz’s birth meets everything required in this 1790 act. His mother, Eleanor Wilson, was a citizen by birth in the United States, fulfilling the requirement of a child being born to at least one citizen, and his father had lived in the United States for years and been granted political asylum here prior to his move to Canada.

With all of this said, the 1790 act is far from the only word on the issue. If we’re talking about the Founders’ intentions, it is also important to note that the Constitution specifically leaves to Congress the prerogative to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” in Article I § 4, and because of this, the ways and conditions under which a person acquires citizenship today. Here is the relevant section of the current law:

Sec. 301. [8 U.S.C. 1401] The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:

g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years…This proviso shall be applicable to persons born on or after December 24, 1952, to the same extent as if it had become effective in its present form on that date.


And, just in case we are curious as to what the law looked like when Ted Cruz was born on December 22, 1970, we can look to the Supreme Court Case of 1971 Rogers v. Bellei. Here is a layman’s summary of the case (emphasis mine):

[Aldo Mario] Bellei (plaintiff) was born in Italy in 1939 to an Italian father and American mother, and visited but never lived in the United States. Bellei failed to comply with Section 301(b) of the Act, and in 1963 was consequently warned twice in writing by the United States that he was at risk of losing his United States citizenship. In 1964 and 1966, Bellei was informed by the American embassy in Rome, verbally and in writing, respectively, that he had lost his United States citizenship. Bellei challenged the constitutionality of the Act against Rogers (defendant), claiming the Act violates the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and Fourteenth Amendment Citizenship Clause. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

And via the case syllabus, here is how the Court ruled:


Appellee challenges the constitutionality of § 301(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which provides that one who acquires United States citizenship by virtue of having been born abroad to parents, one of whom is an American citizen, who has met certain residence requirements, shall lose his citizenship unless he resides in this country continuously for five years between the ages of 14 and 28. The three-judge District Court held the section unconstitutional, citing Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U. S. 253, and Schneider v. Rusk, 377 U. S. 163.

Held: Congress has the power to impose the condition subsequent of residence in this country on appellee, who does not come within the Fourteenth Amendment’s definition of citizens as those “born or naturalized in the United States,” and its imposition is not unreasonable, arbitrary, or unlawful. Afroyim v. Rusk, supra, and Schneider v. Rusk, supra, distinguished. Pp. 401 U. S. 820-836.

296 F.Supp. 1247, reversed.


The Cruz family moved back to the United States in 1974, when Ted was about four years old. Unlike Bellei, he has been a resident of this country ever since, thus meeting the requirements in place when he was born. All of this is irrelevant now, though, as Congress removed the portion of the law Bellei challenged in 1978.

In other words, Ted Cruz is absolutely eligible to run for President. Furthermore, the precise requirements for citizenship have evolved over the years. Even in the days of the Founders, this was true, as the 1790 act was superseded by the Naturalization Act of 1795 and then later by acts in 1798 and 1802.

Bellei aside, the general trend since World War II is that the Supreme Court prefers to liberalize, not restrict, the requirements for citizenship. Joseph M. Bessette has a great summary of this in his article on naturalization for the Heritage Foundation. If they take up the Cruz eligibility case, I’d think they are far more likely to continue that trend than to impose any more restrictions upon the process. Is that what birther types really want?

So, to make a long story short, the Ted Cruz birthers (and the Marco Rubio ones, honestly) are engaged in a losing battle. The Senator from Texas is every bit as eligible as all other natural born citizens to run for and be elected to the Presidency. This current Quixotic crusade they are undertaking, facts be damned, is nothing but an attempt by rabid Trump supporters to disqualify one of “their guy’s” rivals from the race, because they evidently understand thatCruz is a real threat to Trump winning the nomination. This is classic banana republic totalitarianism, and we are better than that.


P.S.: For further reading, this article from the Harvard Law Review, written by former United States Solicitors General Paul Clement (Bush 43) and Neal Katyal (Obama) is definitely worth a read.


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