Should Dual Citizens Be Allowed To Run For President?

Piggy-backing on the endless barrage of questions about President Barack Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy to hold executive office plaguing him throughout his presidency, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has recently faced a spate of similar inquiries (albeit not as openly hostile and outlandish as those President Obama has fielded) regarding his own citizenship in his potential bid for the presidency in 2016. Cruz, who was born in 1970 in Canada to a Cuban-born father and American-born mother, has recently released his birth certificate for public inspection. But how does the information contained therein affect his ability to run for president?

By United States citizenship law, a child born to an American parent anywhere in the world is considered a “natural born" U.S. citizen, which handily coincides with the constitutional requirement that one must be a "natural born citizen" to run for the office of President of the United States of America. But what about the possibility that those born on foreign soil may also be considered citizens of that country, however unwittingly, or "dual citizens?" Is Canada one of those countries that confers “native-born” citizenship status simply by virtue of being born on Canadian soil even to non-Canadian parents? What about Cuban laws governing transmission of citizenship? Could Senator Cruz also be considered a dual citizen of the U.S. and Cuba?

Laws governing citizenship are extremely complex and multi-faceted. Many countries address the matter directly in their constitutions. In the U.S., holding dual citizenship is legal for “native born” United States citizens - those born on U.S. soil. However, persons who naturalize to become U.S. citizens must renounce their citizenship(s) to their prior country or countries of citizenship in an Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America at the time of their naturalization. For over 200 years, it has been via this oath that newly-naturalized Americans have relinquished their foreign loyalties and allegiances and accepted their new set of rights and responsibilities as citizens of the United States of America. The oath states:

 "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God." (taken from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, United States Department of Homeland Security)

Regarding native born (persons born on U.S. soil) citizens’ ability to retain their U.S. citizenship when accepting a subsequent citizenships, current U.S. law operates on the premise that a U.S. citizen intends to maintain their American citizenship in spite of any other citizenship held or acquired unless they actively renounce it via a formalized process. In fact, in recent years persons seeking to renounce their U.S. citizenship in favor of another that they hold (often done to avoid paying taxes to the U.S. or to two countries simultaneously) have been faced with exit taxes to make the practice of renouncing as unappealing as possible if done so purely for financial motives. “Take the money and run” is not a seamless process if you want to take it and run from the U.S. There are potential financial penalties.

What if a dual citizen wanted to run for president? Is it appropriate for a person seeking executive office and all the power and privilege accompanying it to hold an allegiance to another "foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty?" Most Americans would respond with a resounding “no.” So what about Senator Ted Cruz’s rather complex scenario? According to Canadian citizenship law, a person born on Canadian soil is considered a Canadian citizen. At the time of his birth in 1970, Cruz’s mother was an American citizen and Cruz’s father was still a Cuban citizen. According to this scenario, Cruz may have been considered a native born Canadian citizen through his birth on Canadian soil. However, by virtue of his American mother, he would also be considered a natural born American citizen regardless of the soil on which he was born. The citizenship is also transmitted through the bloodline or jus sanguinis. So in all likelihood, it would be legal for Cruz to make his bid for the presidency according to U.S. and Canadian citizenship laws because he meets the rather nebulous criteria of a natural born U.S. citizen.


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