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Is Ted Cruz a Natural-Born Citizen? Here's What That Term Means.

Image via Flickr/Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
By contemporaneous definitions, Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen.

From Texas Standard:

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz spent the weekend in Iowa, where questions about his eligibility to hold the nation's highest office still linger.

The Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek was with him and recounted this encounter with a supporter there: "I'm sure you're aware that the Constitution requires the president to be a natural-born citizen, Don't get this wrong – I'm supporting your candidacy – but I hope this doesn't become an issue for you."

Cruz's response: "I have never breathed a breath of air on the planet Earth where I was not an American citizen."

At issue? Article II of the Constitution as it relates to eligibility requirements for serving as the U.S. president. Lynne Rambo, law professor at Texas A&M University, spoke with Texas Standard about the context of Constitutional law.

"There are three requirements in Article II," Rambo says. "A candidate for president has to be 35 years old, has to have lived in the United Stated for 14 years and be a natural-born citizen."

Cruz checks off on two of those criteria, but where the doubt sets in is his eligibility as a natural-born citizen. Cruz was born in 1970 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Cruz's father was born in Cuba. His mother was born in Delaware, making her a U.S. citizen.

Rambo says this gives Cruz the upper hand in any questions as to his own citizenship at birth.

"A natural-born citizen, while it can't be ascertained with certainty as it was used at the time in the Constitution, included a person who was born on foreign soil who was the offspring of a U.S. citizen," she says. "When we interpret the Constitution, we look to contemporaneous sources. And at the time of the Constitution, there was a British statute with which the founders should have been aware that defines a natural-born subject as a person who was born on foreign soil, but was the offspring of citizens who were subjects of the crown."

Three years after the Constitution was written, Rambo says, the Naturalization Act of 1790 also referred to natural-born citizens as involving offspring of citizens who were born on foreign soil.

"So there's two references around the time the Constitution was written that refer specifically to natural born citizens," she says, "like Sen. Cruz is."

Democratic Florida Rep. Alan Grayson has said he has a lawsuit ready, should Cruz eventually become the nominee. Rambo says he wouldn't have any standing in court.

"Standing requires that a person have injuring fact," Rambo says. "That means that they personally have a concrete harm. The Supreme Court [says] just general grievances that anybody could – which that same claim could be brought by anyone in the United States – those people do not have standing."

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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