We believe that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is eligible to be president. As he was born to a U.S. citizen, Mr. Cruz’s birthplace does not matter — and should not matter. It also should not matter for many other people born outside the United States, even to parents who are not citizens. It is past time to remove from the Constitution the outdated requirement that the president be a “natural-born citizen.”
Post columnist Ruth Marcus notes that the intent of the citizenship requirement was, in the words of Founding Father John Jay, to “provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government.” This may have been a danger when the young, weak country was emerging from British rule, surrounded by hungry European colonial powers. Having just thrown off the British crown, the Founders sought to prevent backsliding in peacetime — both toward aristocratic forms of rule and toward domination from overseas.
Some of the vestiges of the country’s early years, such as a prohibition on U.S. officials accepting titles of nobility, emoluments and other honors from foreign governments, still serve to preserve the nation’s independent republican tradition.
The “natural born citizen” requirement, however, serves no purpose that could possibly justify its continued application. It creates two classes of citizens — those who are eligible to run for president and those who are not. It undermines the notion that allegiance to the Constitution, the democratic process and the rule of law defines what it means to be an American, rather than the provenance of one’s blood. It insults naturalized Americans, many of whom appreciate these principles more keenly than many of those who were lucky enough to be born with U.S. citizenship. It is, moreover, anti-democratic, denying voters the opportunity to choose from some of the country’s best, brightest and most patriotic citizens simply because they were naturalized after their births.
Mr. Cruz’s fitness to serve — or lack thereof — has nothing to do with his parentage. Similarly, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would have had some policy achievements to tout — and a few things to answer for — in a hypothetical presidential run. But the fact that he is a naturalized citizen should not disqualify him. Once you are a U.S. citizen, you should get all the rights and privileges thereof.