Debate over Cruz's eligibility to be president ignites again with new argument

Is Ted Cruz a 'Natural Born' Citizen? It's Complicated
Is Ted Cruz a 'Natural Born' Citizen? It's Complicated

The debate over whether or not Republican candidate Ted Cruz can legally as president has taken a new twist as a constitutional law professor penned an op-ed in which she claims Cruz is not eligible for the job he's seeking.

"Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States," Mary McManamon, a constitutional law professor at Widener University's Delaware Law School, writes in her piece for The Washington Post.

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Donald Trump has become focused on the issue as well, tweeting about Wednedsay morning.

Cruz was born in Canada, to an American mother and a Cuban father. The U.S. Constitution states specifically that "No person except a natural born Citizen ... shall be eligible to the Office of President."

Cruz's campaign, citing legal scholars, has argued that because his mother was a U.S. citizen and therefore he was a U.S. citizen from birth, he counts as natural born rather than "naturalized," the term used to refer to someone of foreign citizenship who is granted American citizenship later in life.

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While legal experts have said Cruz's American mother is enough to qualify him for the presidency as a "natural-born citizen," courts have never ruled on the issue, and McManamon is part of a growing chorus of scholars weighing in on the matter as Cruz's standing in the polls improves.

McManamon insists in her piece that "concept of 'natural born' comes from common law," and that common law clearly indicates that country of birth is a primary factor in this decision.

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Her argument echoes that of fellow legal expert Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor of constitutional law who penned a similar piece for The Boston Globe on Monday.

People are entitled to their own opinions about what the definition ought to be. But the kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the Supreme Court is an "originalist," one who claims to be bound by the narrowly historical meaning of the Constitution's terms at the time of their adoption. To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn't be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and '90s required that someone actually be born on US soil to be a "natural born" citizen. Even having two US parents wouldn't suffice. And having just an American mother, as Cruz did, would have been insufficient at a time that made patrilineal descent decisive.

The Congressional Research Service released a report in 2011 on the qualifications for president, focusing on the issue of natural born citizenship, and ultimately concluded that natural born citizenship means you're a citizen at birth -- not that the country of birth is as crucial.

Republican Sen. John McCain faced his own birther criticism when running for president because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. He has said it is "worth looking into" Cruz's citizenship.

If Cruz does become the GOP nominee, the issue may end up falling to the Supreme Court. Until it does, the question of natural born citizenship and Cruz's eligibility is likely to remain up for debate.

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