The Ted Cruz Conundrum: What Does The Constitution Mean By “Natural Born Citizen?”



Sam Fields

By Sam Fields



“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.” Article II, Section 1-The United States Constitution


So you are born in Puerto Rico and move to Florida when you are 20.  Are you eligible to run for President when you are 35?

The answer to that question is obvious and clear—No one knows.

When the issue of eligibility to be President comes up, those sixty-two words can be as unclear as any in The Constitution.

(Side note: That part about also making anyone eligible who was a citizen at the time of the adoption of The Constitution suspiciously benefits one of the authors—Alexander Hamilton.)

The latest controversy involves Canadian-born Ted Cruz. His mother was an American and father a Cuban and Teddy did not renounce his dual citizenship until June 2014.

It’s almost guaranteed that someone has or will file a lawsuit on the legal theory of quo warranto which challenges the right of someone to legally hold a public office.

There’s a good chance the courts, and particularly the Supreme Court, will look for a way to punt on this question.  The 2000 Bush-Gore case damaged public confidence in the Court in a way that they do not want to revisit. The Supremes will look for some way to avoid deciding another Presidential election.

For example, if some private person sues, they might dismiss the claim on the grounds that he is the wrong person to sue by declaring he has a “lacks standing”.

They could also invoke the “Political Question Doctrine” which is an excuse to send the issue back to the Executive, Legislative branch or even the political parties.

Of course, if Cruz was nominated and a lawsuit in state court resulted in him being removed from that State’s ballot The Supreme Court most certainly will not be able to duck the case.

The point of all this is that we can only speculate about what the Constitution means. Consider the definition of “natural born”.  Would someone conceived by In Vitro Fertilization be “natural born”?

This brings me back to my Puerto Rican conundrum.

For those of you who insist that not being born in a state disqualifies you, consider the case of Barry Goldwater the GOP nominee in 1964.

Just like Puerto Rico, when he was born, Arizona was a territory and not a state. Had he upset LBJ would The Supreme Court denied him office?

Stay tuned.


21 Responses to “The Ted Cruz Conundrum: What Does The Constitution Mean By “Natural Born Citizen?””

  1. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    The onion reported, poles conducted by French Canadian media show Ted Cruz is doing really well in Hollywood. Hollywood city commission is addressing the concern by passing a new ordinance disallowing people from wearing Speedos with socks and flip flops at poling stations, in an attempt to suppress the Canadians from voting.

  2. Natural Answer says:

    An easy one.
    You are “Natural Born” if your mother did not have a “C” section…..

  3. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    If you look at ACTUAL late 18th century legal comments there is no difference being Natural Born and Citizen at Birth BUT the Right invited this by their SHAMELESS FACTUALLESS FALSE attacks on Native Born n Naturally Born President Obama. The racist attacks on our duly elected AND RE-ELECTED present President have come back like a boomerang! Sorry I have NO sympathy for RACISTs on the Right.

  4. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Andrew, that’s truly funny! I’m still laughing. I’m going to tell all my FB friends what you said and I bet you get an offer to do comedy writing. Classic!

  5. Ha Ha Ha says:

    I’d interpret that to mean that the person has to have been a US citizen from the very moment he or she was born. If the Supreme Court agrees, then Cruz qualifies.

    And in other primary-related news:

    1) Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is being challenged from the left in the August 20th primary election…

    and 2) Bernie Sanders is now leading Clinton by 8 percentage points in New Hampshire, has closed to within 1 percentage point of Clinton in Iowa, and continues to advance against Clinton nationwide…

  6. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    I’ve now and again raised this question with lawyers and often it leaves them scratching their heads. I’m interested in your take on it.

    As we all know, the original Constitution together with the original language regarding qualifications for president, found in Article II, was ratified in 1788.

    However, the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868.

    Once amended, the original text of the Constitution must be read in light of every amendment made thereafter. Any former language, whether officially removed or not, must be interpreted in light of the document as amended.

    Otherwise any number of amendments which have been ratified would be in conflict, or null, or inadmissible, or otherwise voided. Otherwise the notion of amendment itself would, to a fair degree, be pointless.

    It is well settled that should a perceived conflict in law arise, the conflict must be resolved, if it can be, in favor of the most recent amendment. That is central to application of law and it applies to all forms of law, statutes, case law, constitutional. Such is the point, the express intent amending laws. To bring change.

    While the question of what “natural born citizen” means in connection with Article II has indeed never been defined, some might argue that doing so is unnecessary — that the plain meaning of the phrase is clear enough. Others disagree.

    However interesting, my question is the task may be moot. Do we even reach that question in light of the 14th Amendment?

    Chocked full of rights ranging from inferred federal privileges and immunities to equal protection to due process — all granting to each citizen the exact same rights — each and every — naturalized or not — all citizens have the same rights under the 14th Amendment.

    The weight of that concept crashes down on the already fractured “natural born citizen clause” with the fury of a block of granite tossed from a skyscraper onto an unsuspecting field mouse.

    As currently interpreted, the natural born citizen clause and the 14th Amendment are mutually exclusive. It is impossible to argue otherwise. They cannot stand together, there’s no way of doing it. You can’t say all citizens have equal rights, except you fellers over there who can’t run for president.

    And if the two can’t stand together then simple legal construction demands that the earlier, inconsistent interpretation be brought into conformity with the later amended one so that the law — as amended — can speak in one, harmonious, unconflicted voice.

    As to the political question doctrine, sure. the Court could punt. They could weasle out of the issue, they have that power and have done it before.

    But it doesn’t appear the doctrine applies here because at issue would be the taking of away of a fundamental right. That is, if all citizens are to be equal as the amended Constitution demands.

    And then, what happens if a natualized citizen runs for and is elected president?

    Can’t happen you say?

    Clearly a naturalized citizen would be prohibited from running for president, you say?

    Think again.

    Here’s the link to an opinion from the Federal Elections Commission saying that naturalized citizens CAN run for president. They may not receive matching funds under the opinion — which itself is begging to be challenged — but they can run.

    If a state keeps them off a ballot, that’s a lawsuit too. If they win, without some legal definitions up front, we have a crisis on our hands that we can thank our courts for — since they like to punt.

    Is it possible that someone “ineligible” could run for president? Very clearly, that answer is yes.

    Could they win? Unikely. Impossible? No. And if they do, then what?

    For a court to rule that a naturalized citizen does not have the right under the 14th Amendment to run for president, just the same as any other citizen, and serve if elected is to rule that in America there is such a thing as “second class” citizenship.

    Which in turn tragically and inevitably violates the letter and spirit of the 14th Amendment.

    The two clauses, as we generally understand them today, cannot stand together. One of those interpretations has to be wrong because as we all know, following the 14th Amendment, there is no such thing as citizens with unequal rights.

    What say you?

    What say you to the argument that “natural born” citizen in the context of the presidency is already defined by inference in the 14th Amendment. Which therefore means that anyone who is a US citizen, irrespective of their place of birth, is aged 35 and has been a resident of the US for 14 years, is eligible to serve as president of the United States if duly elected?


    PS — By the way, I’m not voting for Cruz or seeking to make his argument. I just don’t like the idea of having anything but one class of citizens in the US. Equal ones.

  7. A reader says:

    That anyone born by cesarean section is not “natural born”?

  8. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    As a published research historian thst includes Anglo-Saxon n US legal work I can say every single point Commissioner Castillo raises is WRONG and having to correct teachers at New York Law – a night school more or less – as well as fifth rate Wagner College on Staten Island I can understand why the Commissioner is so misinformed on our Constitution.

  9. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @6 – This is the very same argument made recently by former Presidential candidate Abdul Karim Hassan, Esq., a Queens, NY labor lawyer. The link below details the unanimous rejection of this claim by multiple federal appellate courts:

    Having said that, the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia also received a solid brick wall of rejection until the very happy moment in which the Supreme Court reversed all those lower courts and ruled in their favor. A future Supreme Court may well endorse this very reasonable argument.

  10. Patti Lynn says:

    If the 14th Amendment gives all citizens equal rights, why are felons denied their civil rights after completion of their sentences? Is that not creating a “second class” of citizens?

  11. WELL SAID says:

    Mr. Castillo,

    You really excel at stating the obvious….on many topics…it is very safe to assume you know a little bit about allot of stuff….not sure there is an real value in that type of intellect.

    No wonder Charlie rolls his eyes when you show up……….to talk…..

  12. SAM FIELDS says:


    What if the anti-choice loons (aka right-to-lifers) got their way and people and life began at conception? Would that mean along with “anchor babies” who were eligible to run for the Presidency, we could have “anchor zygotes” eligible if mom and dad slipped into the country to do the nasty and then went right back to Mexico?

    Another thought: Article II Section one only talks about eligibility for the Presidency and not the Vice Presidency. Amendment XXV details a Vice President taking over for an impaired President. Does that not have the effect of making Veeps who are naturalized citizens eligible for the Presidency?

    P.S. to Angelo: You need Bruce Rogow to answer that one about the 14th Amendment.

  13. 14 years? says:

    Regarding the 14 year residency requirement, does that mean a resident of the US for 14 cumulative years or 14 consecutive years immediately prior to running for POTUS?

  14. Kevin Hill says:


    that’s a good question, and the answer to it is embedded explicitly in Section 2 of the 14th amendment, which no ones reads any more because it is largely moot, EXCEPT on the idea of felon voting.

    For convenience, I will quote it here:

    Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or OTHER CRIME (emphasis added), the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

  15. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    I have never questioned Counsellor Fields on law but it is my understanding since the beginning when the President n Vice President were chosen on the same ballot by the Electoral College (until the Jefferson n Burr tie) n afterwards the requirement for Vice President was “read in” to be identical as for President. In other words Counsellor Fields “question” was never “in question”.
    As for the 14th Amendment n general Equal Rights” issues for Blacks Women n people forget until as late as 1826 for Jews, these all became BOTH legal and political issues because “restrictions” “qualification” are subject to State as well as Federal Laws. To practice law or medicine or even drive a car or vote you have to “qualify”, the lunatic fringe argues all government requirements are violations of the “equal rights” requirements which is why they are irrationale and lubatics. “Equal” is not an absolute!

  16. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    First of all #10-you are right on. This whole notion that Senator Cruz cannot run etc. is total BS. No different than Senator Mccain being born in Panama etc. This was concocted by Mr.Trump(did you hear the coyote “I don’t care, I’m just concerned the Democrats will file a law suit, I’m just trying to avoid a law suit”(sure). Again Mr.Trump causing chaos. I do not support Cruz ,however go after him on merit, not this cheap shot. Same thing Trump did w/ Pres.Obama and not being born in Hawaii . Mr.Trump knows how to make headlines I will give him that(the wife who you kidding married and shacking up w/ that coyote in your penthouse apt). What do I always say when some of you are in distress “hold on, relax, stay calm help is on the way. Welcome to the jungle Mike Bloomberg, yes, Mr.Bloomberg ,who has just as much money as Trump will now show him who’ s boss. Run Mike Bloomberg run. Finally its coyote season…

  17. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    1. Senator McCain was born in the Canal Zone THEN A US TERRITORY TO TWO US CITIZENS so that HAS NOTHING TO DO with the Ted Cruz case of veinf born to only one US citizens in a FOREIGN COUNTRY with the wrinkles HE WAS A CANADIAN CITIZEN raishing dual citizenship issues. People who refer to the McCain Case are just not aware of the facts.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Where was Sam Fields born?

  19. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    I may disagree with 90 percent of what Counsellor Fields says but obviously he’s an native born American based on his deep American vvalues. There isnt a foreign strand in his makeup. Wiseass comments r a waste of space n time

  20. It is all BS says:

    If the Kenyan O’Bama has been allowed to hold the office, then anyone in the world is eligible. Unless of course, they are not a demoncrat, then the law applies.

  21. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    As a long time genealogist n user of Hawaii’s State Archives n newspaper archives since a paper in the 1960s I can native n natural born US citizen at birth President Obama has a legally n unchallenged official birth record supported by newspaper announcements. As cracks by nutjobs n racists are pure and simple crap.