Natural Born Citizen — Chapter 7: Natural Born Citizen Remains Debatable
Further information on defining natural born citizen
As we can see from reviewing the case law, the definition of natural born citizen remains undefined by the courts and debatable within the public. From a practical point of view, the definition really comes down to exactly what has already been discussed: is it enough to simply be born here, or does it also require that both of your parents were U.S. citizens at the time of your birth, jus sanguinis (right of blood)?
One of the important issues that clouds this debate is that many people confuse the term citizen and the term natural born citizen. In the court cases we have reviewed so far, no one was conferring natural born citizen on any of the parties to the cases including those citizens described in the 14th Amendment. This book is concerned with this special type of citizenship, i.e., natural born citizenship. The only time natural born citizenship in the United States is required is to hold the Offices of President and Vice-President of the United States. You do not need to be a natural born citizen to be a Senator, nor to be a Representative in the House. You don’t have to be a natural born citizen to be Governor of a state, Mayor, or a City Council person. You do not need to be a natural born citizen to enjoy any of the rights guaranteed to you in the first 10 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Do not these facts on their very face seem to imply or at least lead to the argument that there is something uniquely special about natural born citizenship? If so, what would that uniqueness be? Is it unreasonable to think that the uniqueness might just in fact be as de Vattel wrote: “The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens [?]” But what is most important is what our U.S. Constitution and how our current law can guide us in ascertaining a decision. As the Chief Justice wrote in the Minor v. Happersett decision, “[t]he Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that.”[i] Remember, the opinion written in the Minor v. Happersett case was written after the 14th Amendment was ratified and became a part of the Constitution, so when the opinion in the case makes the above statement, the 14th Amendment is included in that statement meaning the 14th Amendment does not define natural born citizen either.
We have already pointed out that the founding fathers studied de Vattel to the extent that Benjamin Franklin admitted to The Law of Nations use in the Continental Congress. As a result, the founders would have been aware of his definition of natural born citizen at the time of their writing of the Constitution. We have looked at the Nationality Act of 1790. We have reviewed the 14th Amendment and the cases of Minor v. Happersett as well as U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark. We have not, however, in detail looked at the provision in the 14th Amendment that states “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” As a reminder, the 14th Amendment begins:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.[ii]
There is no doubt that when Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, he would have been subject to the territorial jurisdiction of the United States meaning the laws of the United States and the laws in the State of Hawaii, but would he also be politically subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or did he also hold political jurisdiction via the British Naturalization Act of 1948 to the country of England? The question we have been debating here is would he have qualified as a natural born citizen? Is a British citizen at birth a natural born U.S. citizen?
During the Presidential Campaign of 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign put up a website called Fight the Smears (www.fightthesmears.com) in order to debunk any rumors that surfaced about him during the campaign. One of the rumors surfacing in June of 2008 questioned whether or not Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. In response to this smear, Barack Obama’s website posted a page on their website debunking this rumor, by showing a digital copy of Barack Obama’s “Certification of Live Birth” from the state of Hawaii. The website page included an article written by the Washington Post as well as a website post from FactCheck.org where the first (Washington Post) attempted to confirm that he was born in Hawaii while the latter (FactCheck.org) addressed his citizenship. The page on the Fight the Smears website[iii] debunking the Hawaiian birth certificate smear is depicted below:
At the top of the webpage is the website’s official statement on the matter, and it reads in its entirety as follows:
Smears claiming Barack Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate aren’t actually about that piece of paper – they’re about manipulating people into thinking Barack is not an American citizen.
The truth is, Barack Obama was born in the state of Hawaii in 1961, a native citizen of the United States of America.
Next time someone talks about Barack’s birth certificate, make sure they see this page.[iv]
The next item on this page of the website was the digital copy of his Certification of Live Birth from the state of Hawaii. The next item was an extract from The Washington Post article (with a link to the article) stating:
“The truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a Christian family man with a track record of public service.”
And the final portion of this page on his website showed the statement by Factcheck.org clarifying Barack Obama’s citizenship:
“When Barack Obama Jr. was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Kenya was a British colony, still part of the United Kingdom’s dwindling empire. As a Kenyan native, Barack Obama Sr. was a British subject whose citizenship status was governed by The British Nationality Act of 1948. That same act governed the status of Obama Sr.‘s children.
Since Sen. Obama has neither renounced his U.S. citizenship nor sworn an oath of allegiance to Kenya, his Kenyan citizenship automatically expired on Aug. 4, 1982.”
In the official statement on the Fight the Smears website, Barack Obama is said to be a “native born citizen.” The Washington Post extract on the website makes no mention of citizenship. And the FactCheck.org statement on the website states:
Barack Obama Sr. was a British subject whose citizenship status was governed by The British Nationality Act of 1948. That same act governed the status of Obama Sr.’s children.[vii]
At the time the FactCheck.org statement was posted on the Fight the Smears website, sometime in late August or early September of 2008, some people were astounded to see this admission. These folks made the argument that the website posting proved that Barack Obama had at a minimum held dual citizenship at the time of his birth, and that as a British subject at birth he could not possibly be a natural born citizen. It did not matter to them that the FactCheck.org statement went on to say that Barack Obama’s Kenyan citizenship expired on August 4, 1982. For them, this was enough to prove that Barack Obama was not in fact and by his own admission a natural born citizen. For if his citizenship was governed by an Act of the British Government then he must be subject to their political jurisdiction in some manner. The logical question being, can a person who possesses dual citizenship at birth be a natural born citizen? This of course is the seminal question of our discussion. Barack Obama’s Fight the Smears website refers to him as a native born citizen. Is there in fact a difference between native born and natural born citizens?
Prima facie evidence suggests when we look at the definitions of native born versus natural born we see no differentiation in the definitions. Dictionary.com defines native born as: “born in the place or country indicated,” (definition having its origins from 1490 to 1500) and defines natural born as “a native born” (definition has its origin from 1575 to -85).[viii] According to Dictionary.com the term native born has its origins prior to the term natural born which logically allows for the later to derive its definition from the former. As a result, one can conclude that according to Dictionary.com, the case is closed, natural born equals native born. In fact, in de Vattel’s definition of natural born he somewhat alluded to the terms as equals when he stated: “The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.” If natives is equal to native born then de Vattel would also be stating that they are equal. It is not clear, however, if de Vattel is in fact using the term natives in place of native born. Interestingly, no other online dictionary defines natural born, and my Second College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary (albeit is a bit dated) also does not define the term natural born while it does provide the same definition for native born as dictionary.com. Can we conclude that these other dictionaries do not define the term natural born citizen because we do not possess a definition as has been argued to this point in the book?
To this point, in the various chapters of the book, we have discussed different types of citizenship including: natural born citizens, native born citizens, U.S. citizens and naturalized citizens. Although our endeavor is to define the term natural born citizen, it might be helpful to find a finite definition for each of these terms. Our friend, M Publius Goat at the Country First website has put together a citizenship chart which is depicted as follows:
The chart is a little bit hard to read in our reproduced copy of it, but if you click on the chart it will take you to a larger version of the chart. In order to assist with what is depicted above, here is the breakdown of citizenship:
Citizen of the U.S. = born to at least (1) U.S. citizen parent, or born in the U.S.A., or naturalized as a U.S. citizen
Born Citizen of the U.S. = born in the U.S.
Naturalized Citizen = not born in the U.S. and citizenship rights gained by the process governed by federal statute.
Natural Born Citizen = Both parents U.S. citizens (of any type above) and born in the U.S.A.
I highly recommend that you click on the chart and see the logical definitions and relationships between the types of citizens.
The chart provided makes a lot of sense and logically it appears to give us a clear understanding of the various types of citizenship. Unlike the proponents of Barack Obama’s natural born citizenship status, I am not just going to point to this chart and claim our work is done, that we now have a definitive answer as to all of our natural born citizenship questions. This is an excellent start, and lays out citizenship logically for us, but we still have the duty to confirm the chart in accordance with our Constitution and subsequent Amendments and Federal Statutes. The definition of natural born citizen is becoming much clearer to us as we proceed through these discussions, but we are not arrogant enough to think that we can unequivocally define that which has not been defined within our Constitutional and legal system. It should be noted that it is not that those whom are opponents to Barack Obama’s natural born citizenship status are saying Barack Obama is definitely not a natural born citizen even though they are fairly sure he is not, they are simply saying at the very least that they have no definitive way of knowing for sure if he is. As a result, the matter must be decided to protect our nation ensuring adherence to its Constitution. If a person whom is not a natural born citizen is allowed to occupy the Office of the President of the United States in usurpation, then there is no other law contained within the Constitution that must also be abided. Should this occur, then the result is anarchy and our nation no longer exists as a Constitutional Republic bound by the rule of law. Furthermore, there would be nothing to prevent someone from becoming President of the United States whom is not a natural born citizen and has ill intentions whom would do irreparable harm to our nation as a result of becoming President.
[i] Findlaw.com – U.S. Supreme Court Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1872) — http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=88&invol=162
[ii] Cornell University Online Constitution – http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.amendmentxiv.html
[iii] Fight the Smears Birth Certificate Page — http://www.fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate.html
[iv] Fight the Smears Birth Certificate Page — http://www.fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate.html
[v] Washington Post “In Flag City USA, False Obama Rumors Are Flying” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/29/AR2008062901871_pf.html
[vi] FactCheck.org article: Does Barack Obama have Kenyan citizenship? http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/does_barack_obama_have_kenyan_citizenship.html
[vii] Fight the Smears Birth Certificate Page — http://www.fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate.html
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