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Because he was born in Canada, Ted Cruz is ineligible to serve as President of the United States

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/10/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 626 times Debate No: 73239
Debate Rounds (3)
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1. Only a natural born citizen may serve as president.

2. No separate provision of the Constitution defines the phrase "natural born citizen."

3. The 13 States that created the central government by their ratification of the Constitution adopted English Common Law for the decision of legal questions.

4. The Supreme Court has said that reference should be had to English common law in understanding the language and principles of the Constitution.

5. Under English Common Law one had to be born in the territorial boundaries of England to be considered natural born; thus, in the 13 independent States and in the general government that they created, one had to be born within the territorial boundaries of the independent States or the subsequent Union, to be considered a Natural born citizen.

6. Ted Cruz was born in Canada.

7. Ted Cruz is ineligible to be elected President


This looked like an easy win, so I thought I would take it.

Ted Cruz"s mother, Eleanor Wilson Cruz, was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She is a natural born American citizen.

According to Article II of the US constitution, "No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President;"

According to the Harvard Law Review, "All the sources routinely used to interpret the Constitution confirm that the phrase "natural born Citizen" has a specific meaning: namely, someone who was a U.S. citizen at birth with no need to go through a naturalization proceeding at some later time."

A person is US citizen at birth if he or she "had a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of [his or her] birth."


1. Only a natural born citizen may be president of the USA.
2. A natural born citizen is someone who was citizen from birth.
3. A person is a citizen at birth if either or both of his or her parents where citizens at the time of his or her birth.
4. Ted Cruz"s mother was a citizen at the time of his birth.
5. Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen and eligible to be president of the USA.
Debate Round No. 1


We agree that Ted's mother is a citizen, and by all reports a natural born citizen.

We agree on the qualifications for president, including that the President is required to be a "natural born citizen.

The reference you make to "Harvard Law Review" is, instead, a reference to the informal blog maintained by the Harvard Law Review. The Clement/Katyal post actually appears on the Harvard Law Review Forum. [There is some possibility that, we the HLR a human person, your argumentative assertion of it would constitute a pro hominem, which, as you know, is a logical fallacy. A thing is so, or it is not. It logic is not buttressed by invocation of a person of particularly stellar reputation.]

The Clement/Katyal post contains several errors, miscalculations, and erroneous conclusions. Those are identified with particular detail here: Of most important concern is the error made by Clement/Katyal regarding reliance on English Statutory Law as well as English Common Law to provide meaning to the Constitution. The thirteen States, upon independence, enacted Reception Statutes, or by state constitution or judicial decision, to adopt ENGLISH COMMON LAW as the rule of decision in legal matters. English Statutory Law (a frequent source of irritation in the relation between the colonies and Parliament (Stamp Act, Sugar Act, Townsend Act, Quartering Acts) was not received. Moreover, the Supreme Court, while regularly evaluating the language of the Constitution through the lens of English Common Law, has not likewise relied on English Statutory Law. Clement/Katyal, however, need English Statutory Law for their task. English Statutory Law included provisions enacted by Parliament making persons born outside the realm natural born, in order to insure hereditary succession to titles and property precisely because ENGLISH COMMON LAW excluded from natural born status any person born outside the realm.

Congress, in the 1790 Naturalization Act, attempted, like Parliament, to impose overseas citizenship, and has done so subsequently in other versions of the Naturalization Act.

Congress cannot enact a law except by the authority granted in the Constitution. It is a Legislative Body of limited and defined power. So, to successfully make persons born outside the boundaries of the United States "natural born citizens," Congress would have to have a ground in the Constitution. What ground in the Constitution allows Congress to change the meaning of constitutional language? None. What ground of the Constitution might Congress assert as the ground for such a provision of law? The Naturalization Power. What is the Naturalization Power of Congress? That Clause, US Constitution, Art. I, sec. 8, Congress has power "to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization."

If Congress is employing the Naturalization Power to inflate "natural born citizen" with sufficient space to make foreign born children of citizens, then these are Naturalized citizens, not natural born citizens.


Our disagreement seems to be about what makes a natural born citizen. Pro"s argument is that a natural born citizen must be born within the bounds of the United States, while I contend that being born to parents who are American citizens makes that person a natural born citizen.

First let me point out that the plain sense meaning of a "natural born citizen" is that the person is a citizen at birth instead of becoming a citizen later in life. There is no question that a person born to American parents is an American citizen at birth, regardless of where that person was born. So Pro is arguing against the plain sense meaning of the language. Pro will need to provide indisputable evidence that the intended meaning is something other than the plain sense meaning of the words.

Since Pro brings up English Common Law, I will point out that William Blackstone"s work Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume II is often considered an authority on the topic. Blackstone wrote, "any natural born subject of England is capable of being a member of the privy council" that no person born out of the dominions of the crown of England, unless born of English parents, even though naturalized by parliament, shall be capable of being of the privy council."

Note the explicit statement of "unless bon to English parents." So Blackstone points out that being born to English parents qualifies a person as a natural born citizen of England under English law.

Beyond this, James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" commented on this. While recognizing that a person born within the borders of a country would have the strongest ties to the nation Madison said, "It is an established maxim, that birth is a criterion of allegiance. Birth, however, derives its force sometimes from place, and sometimes from parentage;"

So the plain sense meaning of the words, the reliance on English law, and the Father of the Constitution all point to idea that a natural born citizen is one who is a citizen at birth. That includes anyone born to American parents regardless of their location, such as Ted Cruz.
Debate Round No. 2


The point of contention is, exactly, what makes a natural born citizen. In the law, the two essential approaches are jus soli, the citizenship governed by place of birth, and jus sanguinis, the citizenship governed by parentage.

You have drawn an unsupported conclusion from an unsupported assertion: yes, one is a natural born citizen from birth; no, not everyone that acquires citizenship via naturalization at birth is a natural born citizen. In fact, Congress exercised its NATURALIZATION power (to make a citizen out of an alien) to extend natural born citizen status to children born abroad to certain categories of American citizens. Thus, because it acted by its Naturalization Power, these fully American citizens are not natural born citizens.

The selective partial citation of Blackstone will not do.

Blackstone says: "The first and most obvious division of the people is into aliens and natural-born subjects. Natural-born subjects are such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England . . . ." You'll find that here:

Blackstone explained the difference between natives, aliens, or denizens in this important (for our purposes) chapter of his treatise. He states, in the paragraph that you only partially quoted:

"When I say, that an alien is one who is born out of the king's dominions, or allegiance, this also must be understood with some restrictions. The common law indeed stood absolutely so; with only a very few exceptions: so that a particular act of parliament became necessary after the restoration[y], for the naturalization of children of his majesty's English subjects, born in foreign countries during the late troubles. And this maxim of the law proceeded upon a general principle, that every man owes natural allegiance where he is born, and cannot owe two such allegiances, or serve two masters, at once. Yet the children of the king's embassadors born abroad were always held to be natural subjects[z]: for as the father, though in a foreign country, owes not even a local allegiance to the prince to whom he is sent; so, with regard to the son also, he was held (by a kind of postliminium) to be born under the king of England's allegiance, represented by his father, the embassador. To encourage also foreign commerce, it was enacted by statute 25 Edw. III. st. 2. tihat all children born abroad, provided both their parents were at the time of the birth in allegiance to the king, and the mother had passed the seas by her husband's consent, might inherit as if born in England: and accordingly it hath been so adjudged in behalf of merchants[a]. But by several more modern statutes[b] these restrictions are still farther taken off: so that all children, born out of the king's ligeance, whose fathers were natural-born subjects, are now natural-born subjects themselves, to all intents and purposes, without any exception; unless their said fathers were attainted, or banished beyond sea, for high treason; or were then in the service of a prince at enmity with Great Britain."

So you see Blackstone flatly states that the English common law rule was absolute: "The common law indeed stood absolutely so . . . ." He immediately notes that Parliament extended the boundaries of the common law definition by statute (as I previously explained in Round 2). But in America, we adopted English Common Law and did not adopt English Statute Law (again, for the reasons set out in Round 2, such as the offensive provisions of English Statute Law).


Saying, "not everyone that acquires citizenship via naturalization at birth is a natural born citizen," does not make that assertion true. It is in fact blatant nonsense. There would need to be explicit language stating that in certain circumstances (such as being born outside of the country) those who gain citizenship at birth are not natural born citizens. Otherwise the plain sense meaning of the language is that those who receive citizenship at birth are natural born citizens.

Congress can change who receives citizenship at birth. They expand or decrease who is born into citizenship. What they cannot and have not done is change the meaning of "natural born citizen." A natural born citizen is one who receives citizenship at birth. To change this requirement for the presidency would require a constitutional amendment, which obviously has not happened.

In quoting Blackwell Pro appears to be taking English law and reasoning when helpful to his case, but rejecting it when detrimental to his case.

Ultimately though it is unimportant. English law can be helpful for interpreting American law, but it is not American law.

The American constitution states that to be president someone must be a natural born citizen. A natural born citizen is someone who gained his or her citizenship at birth, and we have no strong reason to interpret the words as anything other than their plain meaning.

Ted Cruz gained his citizenship at birth. He is, by definition, a natural born citizen and therefore qualified to be president.
Debate Round No. 3
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