The truce is over. Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican US presidential nomination, told interviewers that his rival Ted Cruz’s Canadian birthplace would be a “very precarious” issue for voters to weigh.
“I’d hate to see something like that get in his way,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “But a lot of people are talking about it and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport.”
This is well-trodden territory for Trump. Before announcing his candidacy, he was most politically concerned with questioning US president Barack Obama’s birthplace. (Predictably, these inquiries were less restrained than with Cruz.)
There’s no legal basis for Trump to question Cruz’s eligibility to run. As the Atlantic’s David Graham pointed out in May 2013, “The Constitution says that the president must be a natural-born citizen.” Natural-born citizenship is, by law, extended to the foreign-born children of US citizens. Though his Cuban father was not a US citizen at the time of Cruz’s birth, his mother was.
Writing for the Harvard Law Review in March 2015, Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor of the United States, and Paul Clement, a former US solicitor general, explain: ”Despite the happenstance of a birth across the border, there is no question that Senator Cruz has been a citizen from birth and is thus a ‘natural born Citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution.” It’s a claim supported by centuries of legal precedent: “The Naturalization Act of 1790 expanded the class of citizens at birth to include children born abroad of citizen mothers as long as the father had at least been resident in the United States at some point,” they write. “But Congress eliminated that differential treatment of citizen mothers and fathers before any of the potential candidates in the current presidential election were born. Thus, in the relevant time period, and subject to certain residency requirements, children born abroad of a citizen parent were citizens from the moment of birth, and thus are ‘natural born citizens.’”
Trump is clearly toying with a dead-horse issue. After all, Arizona senator John McCain ran for president on the Republican ticket in 2008, despite the fact that he was born in the Panama Canal Zone (to US citizens). So, really, all this shows is that Trump’s extreme nationalism and xenophobia know no bounds. Not even members of his own party are safe from his near-McCarthyist obsession with absolute Americanism.
Surely, for at least some Republican voters, going birther on Cruz will be a bridge too far.