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Posts Tagged ‘14th amendment

Natural Born Citizen — Chapter 4: The 14th Amendment

Change to United States citizenship law

Since it has been noted that the United States Constitution does not define natural born citizen in Article II, Section 1, we must look at all other Articles and Sections within the Constitution as well as its Amendments to discover whether or not the issue is addressed and the words natural born citizen have been defined.  Within the original Constitution no other mention of natural born citizen is cited.  There are certainly other sections of the Constitution where requirements to hold office are detailed.  For example, in Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the requirements to hold the office of Senator is stated as follows:

No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.[i]

There is no mention of natural born citizen in the requirement for Senator, simply the requirement to be a citizen for nine years.  John McCain’s place of birth and Barack Obama’s Father’s citizenship would not, therefore, necessarily preclude these men from meeting the citizenship requirements to be U.S. Senators.

On July 28, 1868, the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the required three-fourths of the States.  The 14th Amendment directly dealt with the issue of citizenship and provided for citizenship to former slaves recently freed via the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.  Also known as the “Reconstruction Amendment,” 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.  No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.[ii]

When the debate regarding Barack Obama’s citizenship first surfaced, many of Barack Obama’s supporters pointed to the 14th Amendment as their proof that Barack Obama was eligible to be President.  The argument they make goes something like this:

… Barack Obama is, in fact, a natural-born citizen of the United States, for the simple reason that he was born on American soil (in Hawaii, two years after it acquired statehood). The age and citizenship status of Obama’s parents at the time have no bearing on Obama’s own citizenship.

Any confusion on this point is the result of misunderstanding the legal concepts of jus sanguinis (right of blood) and jus soli (right of birthplace).[iii]

We learned earlier in our discussion that de Vattel unequivocally believed that both jus sanguinis (right of blood) and jus soli (right of birthplace) were requirements to be natural born citizens not simply jus soli (right of birthplace) as the above argument contends.  In addition, it has always surprised me that the 14th Amendment has been relied upon so heavily by those who argue it makes Barack Obama a natural born citizen as nowhere contained therein is the term natural born citizen. 

I was not aware until today, however, (a day after posting this chapter of the book) that referenced on one of Barack Obama’s campaign websites Fight the Smears was a statement regarding Barack Obama’s citizenship with reference made to the 14th Amendment.  While reading a respected legal blogger known as jbjd, I found the following post “If Drowning out Opposing Facts is ‘Un-American,’ then Ignoring Unpleasant Facts Must Be Un-American.”[iv]  In the blog post, jbjd references the Fight the Smears website which states:

Senator Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, after it became a state on August 21st 1959.  Obama became a citizen at birth under the first section of the 14th Amendment. [v]

It is amazing that a candidate’s own website would reference a citizenship amendment via the 14th Amendment declaring that the candidate is a citizen when it is distinctly evident that the qualification for President is to be a natural born citizen.

For those that are still convinced that the 14th Amendment proves that Barack Obama is a natural born citizen by virtue of his birth in Hawaii, let us look at the words of John Bingham credited as the father of the 14th Amendment.  Mr. Bingham said in 1866 while speaking to the first session of the 39th Congress:

I find no fault with the introductory clause, which is simply declaratory of what is written in the Constitution, that every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen; but sir, I may be allowed to say further, that I deny that the Congress of the United States ever had the power or the color of power to say that any man born within the jurisdiction of the United States, not owing foreign allegiance, is not and shall not be a citizen of the United States.  Citizenship is his birthright, and neither the Congress nor the States can justly or lawfully take it from him.[vi] (Emphasis added)

In the Congressional record, John Bingham makes clear reference to a difference between natural born citizens and citizens that difference being jus sanguinis, i.e., the citizenship of the parents.   I ask those proponents of Barack Obama’s natural born citizenship status how then does the 14th Amendment support that status when the father of the 14th Amendment , John Bingham, in his own words states:

that every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen…[vii]

Barack Obama’s father was a British Citizen temporarily residing in the United States while he attended school.  Barack Obama’s father clearly owed allegiance to a foreign sovereign.  In the words of the father of the 14th Amendment that makes Barack Obama a citizen of the United States of America but not a natural born citizen. 

For those who deny the importance of this statement, we shall look at those significant cases on citizenship that followed the 14th Amendment to see if we can find any indication that the understanding of natural born citizenship that Mr. Bingham purported has somehow changed in meaning and application.


[i] Cornell University Online Constitution — http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.articlei.html#section3

[ii] Cornell University Online Constitution – http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.amendmentxiv.html

[iii] About.com in the comments section of a post entitled: “Email Claims Barack Obama Isn’t a Natural Born Citizen” — http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/barackobama/a/obama_citizen.htm

[iv] Word Press Blog by jbjd “If Drowning Out Opposing Facts is ‘Un-American,’ then Ignoring Unpleasant Facts Must Be Un-American, Too” — http://jbjd.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/if-drowning-out-opposing-facts-is-un-american-then-ignoring-unpleasant-facts-must-be-un-american-too/#comment-839

[v] Word Press Blog by jbjd “If Drowning Out Opposing Facts is ‘Un-American,’ then Ignoring Unpleasant Facts Must Be Un-American, Too” — http://jbjd.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/if-drowning-out-opposing-facts-is-un-american-then-ignoring-unpleasant-facts-must-be-un-american-too/#comment-839

[vi] The Congressional Online Record “The Congressional Globe p. 1291” — http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llcg&fileName=071/llcg071.db&recNum=332

[vii] The Congressional Online Record “The Congressional Globe p. 1291” — http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llcg&fileName=071/llcg071.db&recNum=332

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Written by KJ Kaufman

August 12, 2009 at 1:01 pm