With the 2012 presidential elections around the corner, legal experts are again debating presidential eligibility requirements.
The section under question is article 2, section 1, clause 5 of the Constitution that requires the nation's president to be a “natural born citizen,” widely interpreted as someone whose parents are citizens of the U.S. The intention of the framers was to ensure the country would not be led by an individual with dual loyalties, but to also choose a president who had been loyal during the revolution.
This is an antiquated interpretation of article 2, and naturalized citizens should be allowed to hold office based on his or her own merits.
As the GOP presidential race heats up and hopefuls take center stage, one presidential candidate continues to fly under the radar. Abdul Hassan, a Guyana-born naturalized citizen petitioned the Federal Election Campaign (FEC) to allow him to run for president, arguing the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) does not bar naturalized citizens from running. The FEC ruled that a naturalized citizen is not prohibited by the FECA from becoming a candidate; however, a naturalized citizen is not eligible to receive federal matching funding under the FEC’s presidential primary Matching Payment Account Act. When asked about his loyalty, Hassan replied, “look at all these fellows, these FBI agents, natural born Americans, who were spying for Russians.”
Seth Lipsky, author of “The Citizen’s Constitution,” highlights the disagreements on whether natural born covers citizens born to American parents outside the U.S. Natural born citizen is also not defined under the 14th amendment and no definition of the term is provided anywhere in the constitution. Lipsky further notes “of the thirty-nine signers of the constitution, 7 were born in foreign lands, including Alexander Hamilton (the West Indies), Robert Morris (England), James Wilson (Scotland), Pierce Butler, Thomas Fitzsimmons, William Paterson, James McHenry (all Ireland.)
Former presidential hopeful, Senator John McCain, was also challenged by birthers on the grounds that McCain, who was born in 1936 at the Panama Canal Zone, was not actually a citizen at birth. But the Senate trumped the argument by declaring him a natural born citizen.
Barry Goldwater, presidential hopeful in 1964, who was born in Arizona before it became a state, and George Romney, presidential hopeful in 1968, who was born in Mexico, were also been haunted by the natural born citizen issue.
We should take the example from the Supreme Court’s decision in Schneider v. Rusk (1964), which invalidated a federal law under the 5th amendment which discriminated against naturalized citizens, in favor of natural born citizens. That case rightly concluded that “this proceeds on the impermissible assumption that naturalized citizens as a class are less reliable and bear less allegiance to this country then the native born.” For the same reason, the constitution should be amended to allow naturalized citizens to hold office based on their individual merits.
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