With this odd fellow we elected President has come discussion about the Constitutional requirements for being President, and in particular that pesky little phrase “natural born citizen”. There are some very long (and some long-winded) discussions about that this means. I personally think the thing is being over analyzed.
I hit the Concise Oxford English Dictionary for the “old meaning” of the term, and it provided a very simple definition: “having a position by birth”, so “natural born citizen” means being a citizen at birth. There’s nothing new here, and indeed this is what is usually understood by the term. If you look at all the uses of “natural born”, it means “born with” some characteristic, e.g. natural-born storyteller, natural-born swimmer, natural-born athlete, natural-born mathematician, natural-born musician, and on and one. A natural born citizen is just someone born with the quality of being a citizen.
At first blush, this would seem to be a slam dunk answer for Barack Obama’s natural born citizenship, since the fourteenth amendment defines: “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”. There’s no question in my mind that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Some quibble about the latter part: “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”. Keep in mind that now we are talking about citizenship in general, not the qualifications for President. Some argue that the children of non-citizens born in the United States should not be citizens because they are subject to the government of their parents, that they have divided jurisdiction. This non-citizenship for the children of non-citizens would be a big surprise to hundreds of thousands of Americans with US Birth Certificates and carrying US Passports, and to the US State Department and most of the population. However, the question of citizenship for the children of non-citizens was settled long ago by the United States Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark. Wong was born in the US, the child of two Chinese temporary workers. He tried to re-enter the country and was denied entry because he was not a citizen. The Supreme Court in a 6-2 vote declared that he was indeed a citizen.
A lot is being written right now about the Wong case (some of it misleading), but the one sure thing in Wong is that the children born in the United States to non-US citizens are themselves citizens at birth.
Since “natural born” refers to a quality at birth, anyone born in the United States can grow up to be President.
INA: ACT 301 – NATIONALS AND CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES AT BIRTHSec. 301. [8 U.S.C. 1401] The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
(b) a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe: Provided, That the granting of citizenship under this subsection shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of such person to tribal or other property;
(c) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;
(d) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of such person, and the other of whom is a national, but not a citizen of the United States;
(e) a person born in an outlying possession of the United States of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year at any time prior to the birth of such person;
(f) a person of unknown parentage found in the United States while under the age of five years, until shown, prior to his attaining the age of twenty-one years, not to have been born in the United States;(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years: Provided, That any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States, or periods of employment with the United States Government or with an international organization as that term is defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (59 Stat. 669; 22 U.S.C. 288) by such citizen parent, or any periods during which such citizen parent is physically present abroad as the dependent unmarried son or daughter and a member of the household of a person (A) honorably serving with the Armed Forces of the United States, or (B) employed by the United States Government or an international organization as defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act, may be included in order to satisfy the physical-presence requirement of this paragraph. This proviso shall be applicable to persons born on or after December 24, 1952, to the same extent as if it had become effective in its present form on that date; and
(h) a person born before noon (Eastern Standard Time) May 24, 1934, outside the limits and jurisdiction of the United States of an alien father and a mother who is a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, had resided in the United States. 302 persons born in Puerto Rico on or after April 11, 1899
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. See also: Acquisition and Retention of U.S. Citizenship and Nationality – US Department of State.
And if we needed a precedent, President Chester A. Arthur was born in the United States to an American mother and a British father. He became president in 1880.
See also this interesting article, Natural Born Citizenship for Dummies.