Is Ted Cruz a Natural Born Citizen?

Is Ted Cruz a natural born citizen?

Ted Cruz has just been sworn into office, and already rumors of a presidential run are swirling. Pundits are questioning if Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen eligible to run for president. Ted Cruz was born in Canada in 1970 of an American citizen mother and Cuban father.

Many incorrectly assume one has to be born in a U.S. state or territory to be a natural born citizen, but the term “natural born citizen” refers to whether the person was a citizen at birth or became a citizen through naturalization. The 14th amendment states:

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.

Ted Cruz was not born in a U.S. state or territory, so clearly he is not a birthright citizen under the 14th amendment. However, under federal law, he was still born a citizen, which makes Ted Cruz a natural born citizen. One criteria for “Citizenship at Birth for Children Born Outside the U.S. and its Territories” from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

Ted Cruz natural born citizen

Eleanor Darragh, mother of Ted Cruz, was raised in Delaware, graduated from a Catholic High School in the U.S., as well as Rice University, so clearly she meets the residency requirements.

Natural born citizen defined

Our constitution doesn’t specifically define “natural born citizen” but is framed in English common law in effect at the time, and under English common law the term “natural born citizen” is understood to be a citizen at birth.

Blackstone defined “natural born subjects” as those born within the dominions of England, as amended by statute. In a monarchy, citizens are called “subjects” while in a Republic, “subjects” are called “citizens.” Americans stopped calling themselves “subjects” and began calling themselves “citizens”, consistent with the change in form of government from monarchy to republic. Blackstone’s commentaries was the most authoritative source on English Common law for over a century. From William Blackstone (1765), Commentaries 1:354, 357–58, 361–62

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, that is, within the ligeance, or as it is generally called, the allegiance of the king; and aliens, such as are born out of it.

However, Blackstone also recognizes natural born citizenship for subjects born abroad. English common law is comprised of precedents, court decisions, as amended by statutes.

Yet the children of the king’s embassadors born abroad were always held to be natural subjects: 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 (passed in 1350). that 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. But by several more modern statutes 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.

The Naturalization Act of 1790, passed just 12 months after our constitution became effective in 1789, undoubtedly reflects the understanding of “natural born citizen” in effect in that era, and states:

And the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens:  Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States…

A 2011 report prepared by the Congressional Research Office concludes:

The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term “natural born” citizen would mean a person who is entitled to U.S. citizenship “by birth” or “at birth,” either by being born “in” the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; by being born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship “at birth.” Such term, however, would not include a person who was not a U.S. citizen by birth or at birth, and who was thus born an “alien” required to go through the legal process of “naturalization” to become a U.S. citizen.


Bob Quasius is the founder and president of Cafe Con Leche Republicans.


  1. R. C. Jackman says

    Ted’s father wasn’t naturalized until 2005, thirty five years after Ted was born.
    Therefore Ted is not a natural born citizen.
    “A natural born citizen of the United States is a child born of two citizen parents. It matters not where the child was born. In order to confirm NBC status, a father must also have been a prior resident of the U.S. In order to retain NBC status, a natural born citizen must retain an exclusive U.S. citizenship.”

    • Debby Tyler says

      Ted is not a natural born citizen. The Constitution took a lot from the Law of Nations, and Vattel explained what a natural born citizen is. You can’t be natural born if you are born here, but your parents were not citizens. That is why the wording is important for who could run for a particular office. Why would they state that to be a Rep you had to be 25 and a citizen for 5 yrs and at least 30 and been a citizen for 9 years, but say that he President has to be Natural born. The 14th amendment was for the benefit of slaves. Not for a child born here with parents that are in this country illegally. Those children are citizens of their parents country. Those that need the votes, are the ones that interpret the law however they want. It is all about the needs, not what the law is.

  2. Correction says

    “Ted Cruz was not born in a U.S. state or territory, so clearly he is not a birthright citizen under the 14th amendment. However, under federal law, he was still born a citizen, which makes Ted Cruz a natural born citizen.”

    John Bingham and Jacob Howard, the authors of the 14th Amendment, they told you exactly how Cruz is __NOT__ a natural born Citizen.

    John Bingham said, …all other persons born within the Republic, of parents owing allegiance to no other sovereignty, are natural born citizens..”

    Did Cruz and his parents owe allegiance to another sovereignty? Yes! That means, Cruz is not a natural born Citizen, because he had an unnatural split allegiance at birth.

    Jacob Howard said, “Constitution as now amended, forever withholds the right of citizenship in the case of accidental birth of a child belonging to foreign parents within the limits of the country.”

    Again, Cruz was a foreigner with a spit allegiance, and it doesn’t matter whether he was born in the country or not, so he is clearly NOT a natural born Citizen. Cruz is a Citizen, but he wasn’t present at the time of the Adoption of our US Constitution, so he doesn’t qualify.

    Cruz is NOT a “natural born” Citizen.

    • Cafe Con Leche says

      U.S. Citizens at birth can be found in 8 USC § 1401 – Nationals and citizens of United States at birth
      The rules have changed from time to time, but at the time our constitution was adopted, children born abroad of two citizen parents who had resided in the U.S. were considered natural born citizens. As pointed out in the blog, at the time Ted Cruz was born, he qualified as a citizen at birth, which is a natural born citizen. Ditto for Bobby Jindal, John McCain, and Nikki Haley.

      English common law was embraced by every one of the states following independence, except where it conflicted with their state constitutions. In some cases, their state constitutions specifically embraced common law, effectively making English common law into American common law, except where it conflicted with their constitution (i.e. such as anything related to monarchy!). At the time our constitution was written, the term natural born citizen was widely understood in the context of American common law, which derived from English common law. The framers saw no need to specifically define the term “natural born citizen” which is compelling evidence the term was widely understood and not disputed.

      Much has been made of Vattell’s Law of Nations. There’s a passage in Vattel’s book about “naturals”, but the book is a work of philosophy about international relations, not a law book like Blackstone’s Commentaries. The framers cited Blackstone’s commentary on common law far more often than Vattel. In Vattel’s frame of reference, citizenship was framed based on parentage, as Vattel was Swiss, and in Switzerland citizenship is based on parentage, not place of birth. In the U.S. and England, citizenship was based upon place of birth regardless of the parent’s citizenship, unless the parent was a diplomat, whose families are not subject to jurisdiction. Blackstone specifically describes natural born subjects to include children born in English territory of alien parents, and also children born abroad of English subjects who had resided in English territory at some point during their lives.

      Congress’ first naturalization law in 1790 specifically makes children born abroad of citizen parents who had resided in the U.S. at some point natural born citizens. If Congress in 1790 understood natural born citizenship as Vattel supposedly did, which is debatable, then surely Congress would not have recognized children born abroad of citizen parents as natural born citizens.

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