Monday, September 19, 2011

Myth #19: Being Born in the United States Satisfies the Definition of Natural Born Citizen

This is the Nineteenth Myth in the series: 25 Myths of the U.S. Constitution.

Note: These articles later were updated and combined into my first book: 25 Myths of the United States Constitution.

By Douglas V. Gibbs

When the birthers questioned Obama's eligibility to be President of the United States, the debate circled around whether or not he was born in Hawaii as he claimed. Once a birth certificate was produced, the big voices determined that the debate was over, because Obama's birth in Hawaii was proof enough that he is a natural born citizen. Problem is, his place of birth alone is not the determining factor.

According to various writings by the Founding Fathers, as well as definitions derived from the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1790, and Vattel's Law of Nations Book I Section 212, Natural Born Citizenship requires the citizenship of the parents at the time of birth of the child.

The rationale behind the definition of Natural Born Citizen was to alleviate fears that foreign aristocrats would come to America and use their wealth to impose a monarchy upon the United States, or that the president would have divided allegiances to the nations of his parent's citizenship should they not be under America's full jurisdiction at the time of the birth of the child.

Full jurisdiction was defined as "full allegiance to America."

The courts have also come to the same conclusion. Though I do not believe court opinions are supposed to alter law, or determine directly the constitutionality of a law, I do believe that their opinions can be beneficial in understanding the law as it is written. In the case of Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1875), the courts determined that a natural-born citizen is a person born in the jurisdiction of the US to parents who are citizens. Essentially, the case establishes that not all “born citizens” are “natural-born”

To return back to the case of Barack Obama, he was born in the U.S. to a citizen mother and a British/Kenyan father. This means that Obama was born with dual nationality and dual allegiance, part U.S. citizen, part foreigner. The Minor v. Happersett case makes a clear distinction between natural-born citizens and aliens or foreigners.

No Constitutional amendment has been passed to further clarify the definition of Natural Born Citizen, and no U.S. Supreme Court case has overruled the Minor case. The Court in Minor directly construed Article 2 Section 1, and drew from evidence available from the time-period shortly after the Revolutionary War.

Vatell's Law of Nations. And in section 212 of that book, it states:

§ 212. Citizens and natives.

The citizens are the members of the civil society; bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. The society is supposed to desire this, in consequence of what it owes to its own preservation; and it is presumed, as matter of course, that each citizen, on entering into society, reserves to his children the right of becoming members of it. The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children; and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. We shall soon see whether, on their coming to the years of discretion, they may renounce their right, and what they owe to the society in which they were born. I say, that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary


Unknown said...

This is incorrect. In fact that case established that minor was a citizen, but that didn't give her the right to vote. I think you should take the constitution as it is, not as what you want to believe it to be.

Douglas V. Gibbs said...

Unknown: No, you are incorrect. Case Law is not the definition of the Constitution. Definitions are based on original intent, and the States as the final arbiters of the document.

Douglas V. Gibbs said...

I simply used Minor v. Happersett to provide proof of a judicial opinion that fit the Framer's definitions. The "ruling" or "opinions" cannot change definitions, or grant authorities. Only changes in the Constitution through the amendment process may do that.

Douglas V. Gibbs said...

My reference to Minor v. Happersett was not regarding whether or not the ruling found Minor as a citizen, or not, but the written opinion by the Chief Justice relaying his understanding of the definition of natural born citizen (which is a separate and different definition than native or citizenship granted by law/naturalization). The ruling regarding Minor has nothing to do with "Natural Born Citizenship." Again, it was Morrison Waite's observation and written opinion that was important, here. The details have been spelled out more completely regarding this myth in my book, 25 Myths of the United States Constitution.