Friday, Donald Trump, Republican candidate for President, announced that if needed he would file a legal motion or lawsuit to stop Senator Ted Cruz, (R-TX) from becoming President of the United States. The principle factor in filing the lawsuit is that Senator Cruz was not born in the United States but born in Canada. Senator Cruz’s mother is a citizen of the United States but Cruz’s father is not. In a twitter posting, Trump said that, “If @TedCruz doesn’t clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads, I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen.”
There has been legal discussion regarding Cruz’s citizenship as it was recently revealed that Cruz in fact held citizenship in Canada and the United States. It was only after learning that Cruz held both citizenships that questions arose as to whether a United States Senator could hold both. In May of, Cruz formally renounced his Canadian citizenship. The U.S. Constitution requires a president to be a “natural born” citizen. The popular understanding has long been that this means being born on American soil. But Cruz believes he is entitled to American citizenship at birth because he mother was a citizen of the United States. The common train of thought is that being born to an American citizen makes the child automatically a citizen.
The problem is that there has never been an actual hearing on the subject. The Constitution has not been interrupted regarding this subject. Children of military personnel such as Senator John McCain, (R-AZ) who was born in Panama are automatically thought to be citizens of the United States. The question of citizenship comes from Section 1, Article II of the U.S. Constitution which states: Article II: “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.”
In addition to the Constitution there is a congressional act stated in 1790 which states that “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.” There was another congressional act in 1795 that issued a similar assurance, though it changed the language from “natural born citizen” to “citizen.” There have been questions regarding other candidates for President and whether they were “natural born” citizens but a candidate with the question such as Cruz has never won, so the issue has never been tested by the court system. As one scholar has said, it is muddy waters. Whether Trump goes through with his lawsuit other citizens may have legal standing to bring suit that federal courts would have to decide.