The Constitution explicitly states that the President must be a “natural-born citizen. The definition of “natural-born citizen” has changed over the years. Today, any child born in the U.S. or with a U.S. citizen for a parent qualifies as a “natural-born citizen.” That was not always the case. In the past both parents had to be citizens and had to have lived in the country for a certain number of years at a certain age. For instance, if President Obama had been born abroad he would not be a U.S. citizen. A child born after 1986 with only one citizen for a parent (like the President) would. What sense does that make? This all leads me to question the natural born citizen requirement.
I began to question this topic while thinking about the line of succession. The Presidential Succession Act details who becomes President when. For instance, it the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House are all killed in one event, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate becomes President. This line descends through the Cabinet. However if one member in the line is not a natural born citizen, they are ineligible. I don’t really like that.
I understand that the requirement was necessary in 1789, but today things are very different. We are a country built by immigrants. We were not that country after the Revolution. How can we say that a person who came to this country, went through the process of naturalization and was elected to high public office is unqualified to be the nation’s executive.
The Founding Fathers did not know what this country would become. They were afraid of a man leading them back to allegiance with England. That is why they diminished the power of the Executive Branch. The Executive has only been this powerful since World War II. I feel that we should look at that clause of the Constitution and really have a discussion about it. What does that say of us as a people? Maybe there are reasons for requiring the President to have been born an American citizen, but I can’t think of any. If you can let me know. I would be very interested in hearing your views. Anyway, it was just a random thought, but perhaps one we should talk about.