A Forbes report, Birther Hypocrisy- Right Wing Has No Problem With Canadian Born Senator Ted Cruz Running For President sums it up.

Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, the son of an American mother and a Cuban father. Were we to buy into the birtherism claim that Obama was, indeed, born in Kenya, then he too would have been foreign born as the son of an American mother and a father who was a citizen of a foreign land.

The article goes on to discuss the possible definition of the term "natural born" citizen, that is required by the US Constitution.

Is Ted Cruz a "natural born citizen"?

Related: Is Barack Obama a natural born US citizen?

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    It seems to me a question about the definition of the term naturally born citizen and as such off-topic.
    – Christian
    Jan 9, 2016 at 12:58
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    To @Christian's point: The article goes into some depth about the vagueness of the natural born citizen clause. What evidence could we provide to support an interpretation of an untested law?
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 9, 2016 at 14:42
  • Nope. But only congress has standing to bring a case and nobody's really sure how that might happen.
    – Rusty
    Jan 9, 2016 at 15:25
  • To the extend that only congress can bring a case it's looks to me like the question of whether congress is motivated to do so and whether judges are motivated to decide in a certain way.
    – Christian
    Jan 9, 2016 at 23:39
  • Congressional Participation in Article III Courts: Standing to Sue: "it remains unclear whether a house of Congress could satisfy the requirements of standing as a plaintiff in an authorized lawsuit against the executive branch".
    – user30557
    Jan 10, 2016 at 2:47

2 Answers 2


Despite the happenstance of a birth across the border, there is no question that Senator Cruz has been a citizen from birth and is thus a “natural born Citizen” within the meaning of the Constitution.

That's from a Harvard Law Review commentary by Neal Katyal and Paul Clement: http://harvardlawreview.org/2015/03/on-the-meaning-of-natural-born-citizen/

Neal Katyal is a former acting United States Solicitor General and a current Georgetown University Law professor. Paul Clement is a former United States Solicitor General and current Georgetown University Law professor. Clement has argued more cases before the Supreme Court since 2000 than any other lawyer. I point these things out because since this is a question about a legal opinion, the expertise of the cited authorities and their familiarity with constitutional law is relevant. However, their reasoning is presented further in the article above for you to examine as well. Regarding bias, Katyal identifies as a democrat and served under Obama; Clement identifies as Republican and served under Bush.

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    Does this also imply that the speculation about Obama was also irrelevant even before his birth certificate was made public?
    – matt_black
    Jan 9, 2016 at 15:48
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    "none of this should actually matter because Obama's mother was an American, if you consider Kansas America. So she could have been on Mars when wee Barry emerged and he'd still be American." - latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/06/…
    – user30557
    Jan 9, 2016 at 15:51
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    @matt_black Correct. It has always been a completely bogus speculation, yes. Jan 9, 2016 at 19:26
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    While I tend to agree that this interpretation is probably correct, I don't really think any answer to this can be complete without noting that there has never been a Supreme Court ruling one way or the other regarding the meaning of the 'natural born citizen' clause. Certainly, it's not disputed that Cruz was a U.S. citizen from birth; the question is only over what actually constitutes a 'natural born citizen,' since the Constitution doesn't define what that means.
    – reirab
    Jan 10, 2016 at 18:52
  • The Supreme Court has said that "The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that." US v. Wong Kim Ark. That case asked "whether a child born in the US [...] becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the US." The court said yes. In Perkins v. Elg, the court said that "A child born here of alien parentage becomes a citizen of the US" and "can become President". Sure, those cases don't address the issue in this question, but the Court hasn't been silent on the meaning of the clause.
    – user30557
    Jan 10, 2016 at 19:07

We don't know

The truthful answer is that we don't know if he is a natural born Citizen in this case. The relevant passage in the U.S. Constitution from Article II, Section 1:

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.

Source: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

Ted Cruz was not alive at the time of the adoption of the constitution, so the relevant portion is "No Person except a natural born Citizen...shall be eligible to the Office of President". There's no definition of "natural born Citizen" in the original constitution, so we don't know what it might mean. The fourteenth amendment makes clear that anyone born within the U.S.A. "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" is a citizen, but it doesn't say anything about those born outside.

There are arguments both ways. It would be perfectly reasonable to say that anyone who has been a citizen since birth is a natural born citizen. If so, Ted Cruz is eligible to run for President.

There is also an argument that people born outside the U.S.A. when born are not natural born citizens. This is based on a reading of what the phrase meant in the common law at the time, and on judicial precedents regarding the citizenship of people born in the Panama Canal Zone.

Note that it is currently clear that Ted Cruz and John McCain are citizens, and Cruz has been a citizen since birth (McCain was retroactively given citizenship by congressional action). What's not clear is if they are "natural born Citizen[s]" under the constitution.

Source: McManamon, Mary (2015), "The Natural Born Citizens Clause as Originally Understood", 64 Catholic University Law Review 317
Source: Chin, Gabriel J. (2008), "Why Senator John McCain Cannot Be President: Eleven Months and a Hundred Yards Short of Citizenship", 107 Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions 1

Note that it would be possible for the Supreme Court to overturn the previous court rulings and declare McCain a citizen since birth and thus a "natural born Citizen". Those decisions have mostly been moot since laws were passed giving people born to U.S.A. citizens citizenship regardless of birthplace.

Part of the problem is that there is no authorization for Congress to set the definition of who is and is not a "natural born" citizen for the purposes of who is eligible to be President. But Cruz and McCain base their arguments on laws passed by Congress. The judicial precedents actually work against them, as there is definite precedent for denying people born outside the U.S. citizenship from before the passage of those laws. The laws were passed in response to the judicial actions.

So the only thing we can say for sure is that we don't really know. A Supreme Court decision could go either way.

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    That Panama Canal Zone was part of the U.S. at the time McCain was born. It was sovereign U.S. territory, just like Guam, Puerto Rico, overseas military bases, etc. He has been a U.S. citizen since birth. Also, his parents were both U.S. citizens, so he would have been a citizen since birth even if he hadn't been born inside the U.S. (just like Cruz.)
    – reirab
    Jan 11, 2016 at 6:23
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    @reirab It was still ruled that people born in the Panama Canal Zone were not US citizens. Congress had to explicitly pass legislation making them citizens. This legislation was passed after McCain was born. Thus, McCain was not a citizen at birth. He became a citizen eleven months later. It's reasonable to argue that he should have been. If it had been appealed to the Supreme Court, they might have made him a citizen (and could have done so retroactively). But the actual holdings at the time were that he wasn't.
    – Brythan
    Jan 11, 2016 at 15:14
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    People born of one U.S. parent in the Canal Zone were retroactively granted U.S. citizenship by an act of Congress shortly after McCain's birth (about a year later.) McCain, however, was born to two U.S. parents, which granted him immediate citizenship, even before said act.
    – reirab
    Jan 11, 2016 at 16:55
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    @reirab Citation? That directly contradicts the quotations I've seen from the Chin source. Note: I'm not asking for a citation that McCain had two U.S. parents. I'm asking for a citation showing that those with two parents were citizens. Note that such a citation would need to come from prior to the act's passage in 1937, as after that, the law changed. A newer second order citation is fine for my purposes (someone could cite some source that you have not read).
    – Brythan
    Jan 11, 2016 at 21:34
  • Note that other countries (for the crown prince) have similar restrictions. He needs to be born in a sovereign territory. Retroactive legislation won't help. See for example "Alexander was born in Suite 212 of Claridge's Hotel in Brook Street, London. The British Government temporarily ceded sovereignty over the suite in which the birth occurred to Yugoslavia so that the crown prince would be born on Yugoslav territory" (wikiwand.com/en/Alexander,_Crown_Prince_of_Yugoslavia)
    – karakfa
    Jan 15, 2016 at 16:31

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