Naturalized Citizens and the Presidency

After studying Athens and Sparta we come to realize that foreigners in either city-state were denied the possibility of citizenship. While currently this is not the case in the United States, there is one position a naturalized citizen is denied - the Presidency. Some argue that times have changed and the Constitution should be amended. Others argue that there are reasons that still exist to bar naturalized citizens the opportunity of becoming President. This issue will be the subject of our first Socratic Seminar.

Read the documents below and be prepared to share your insight with the rest of the class in a Socratic Seminar

United States Constitution: Article II, Section 1

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; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.

In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President

Should Foreign-Born Citizens Be Allowed to Run for President?

Source: Current Events; 1/15/2005, Vol. 104 Issue 15, p3-3, 2/3p, 1c

He's played a medieval barbarian, an evil scientist, and a killer robot. He's even walked a beat as a kindergarten cop. In his movies, it seems as if Arnold Schwarzenegger can do anything. But in real life, there's one thing he can't do-become president of the United States.

Though Schwarzenegger has lived in the United States for 20 years and is currently the governor of California, the nation's top post is off-limits to the Austrian-born former bodybuilder. That's because Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states, "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."

Some people say it's time to change the Constitution and open the Oval Office to the nation's 12.8 million foreign-born, naturalized citizens. Currently, four proposals are in Congress to amend the Constitution to permit naturalized citizens who have lived in the United States more than 20 jars to become president. Amending the Constitution is no easy task. Since the Bill of Rights was codified in 1791, the Constitution has been changed only 17 times. For an amendment to take effect, it must be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate and by the legislatures of 38 states.

It's Un-American!

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced one of the bills before Congress. "The purpose of the native-born-citizen requirement has long passed, and it is time for us ... to remove this impediment" he said while introducing the bill.

Hatch noted that more than 60,000 immigrants currently serve in the U.S. armed forces and cited the 700 Medal of Honor winners who were born in other countries. Yet, he said, "no matter how great their sacrifice ... they remain ineligible to be a candidate for president."

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was born in Czechoslovakia, says that immigrants are what the United States is all about. "We are a nation of immigrants," she said.

Real Americans Only

Detractors of the proposed amendment say people born in other countries may have divided loyalties. "I don't think it's unfair to say the president of the United States should be a native-born citizen. Your allegiance is driven by your birth," said Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Jack Martin, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, agrees. He says the drafters of the Constitution included the restriction for a reason. "We think that the Founding Fathers had a legitimate sense that anyone who was not a natural citizen would continue to have a potential conflict of ties with another country," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Amend it, but not just for Arnold

Source: Turley, Jonathan. USA Today; 11/23/2004

Only natural-born citizens can become president, according to our Constitution; 230 years ago, that made sense. Today, it's illogical and un-American.

It is the most glaring contradiction in our Constitution: a nation of immigrants that excludes anyone who is not born in the United States from becoming president. While long criticized, it went largely unchallenged until Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California and his fans discovered that he couldn't become "The Presinator" because of his Austrian birth.

It is hardly the stuff that inspiring constitutional movements are made of, but, then again, one takes what one can get when it comes to constitutional reform.

The problem is found in Article II, Section 1, which limits the presidency to "a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution," who is at least 35 years old and has been a U.S. resident for 14 years.

Many historians believe this rule was created by opponents of Alexander Hamilton to keep him from being president because of his birth in the West Indies. Though this was likely an interest of some framers, Hamilton could have claimed eligibility since he was a citizen when the Constitution was adopted and had been a resident for 15 years.

The main purpose of the provision appears to be simple insecurity. The United States was a young country surrounded by foreign conspiracies -- real and imagined. The concern was that a foreign-born leader could lead the country back under English rule.

The eligibility provision was written for a different people and a different time. It now strikes a decidedly xenophobic note in an otherwise inclusive document. More important, the exclusion is an insult to the immigrants who built this nation -- 20 million since 1907.

The 'Arnold factor'

The "Arnold factor" has helped push this issue to the forefront, but it may also distort the debate. This month, TV ads will start to run in favor of a constitutional amendment. Unfortunately, the sponsors are Schwarzenegger zealots, and the ad is framed around him.

It is doubtful that such a cult of personality will sway the needed two-thirds of both houses of Congress or three-fourths of the states needed to amend the Constitution. Indeed, another group has announced its own ads opposing the "Arnold amendment." A far better argument is found in the simple fact that the eligibility requirement is anti-American and illogical.

If applied strictly, the rule could have been used to challenge the very founders of our nation. Technically, George Washington was not a citizen when the Constitution was adopted because ratification was completed by the first nine states, which did not include Virginia. Likewise, our second president, John Adams, spent 1778-88 in Paris and other foreign capitals, raising some question as to whether he was in residency for 14 years.

From that dubious beginning, the provision became even more curious as it denied the nation some of our best and brightest. Consider a brief list of citizens barred:

* More than 700 immigrants who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for outstanding bravery in war, or any of the 60,000 immigrants currently serving in our military in Iraq and elsewhere.

* U.S. business and intellectual giants such as industrialist Andrew Carnegie (Scotland) and economist John Kenneth Galbraith (Canada).

* Past Cabinet members, including three secretaries of State: Christian Herter (France), Henry Kissinger (Germany) and Madeleine Albright (Czech Republic).

* Leading politicians, including the governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm (Canada) and Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif. (Hungary).

Given our dismal crop of homegrown candidates from the two major parties, citizens should be struggling to expand the pool of candidates. Heck, if we are shopping in the entertainment area, we could have picked someone who really knows how to deliver a "girlie man" joke, such as Bob Hope (United Kingdom), or someone who can pronounce the penultimate syllable of words, such as Alex Trebek (Canada) of Jeopardy!

Diverse choices, indeed

If we really wanted the ultimate terminator, why an actor? Edward Teller (Hungary) actually gave us the H-Bomb, and Enrico Fermi (Italy) showed us how to cause chain reactions. Better yet, we had Adm. Hyman Rickover (Russia), who built the U.S. "Nuclear Navy."

The list goes on and on. The current rule constitutes a form of reverse Darwinism: We actually exclude those who have proved themselves, against the greatest odds, by sheer will and intellect. Instead, we favor the inbred progeny of the old guard, with inherited names and implied capabilities.

Current proposals would eliminate the absolute ban on foreign-born citizens in favor of a residency requirement -- 20 or 35 years under two such plans.

In the end, amending the eligibility provision is an important act of self-definition. The provision reads like a constitutional version of an American Kennel Club certification for the purebred president. The fact is that we are a nation of mutts with the blood of countless ethnic groups coursing through our veins. Let's pick our presidents on merits. If you want a pure breed, buy a dog.


Source: Russell, Lani. New York Amsterdam News; 7/11/2002, Vol. 93 Issue 28, p5, 1/4p

On July 4, Pres. George Bush honored immigrants serving in the United States armed forces with an executive order that grants expedited citizenship consideration for noncitizens on active duty in the military since the terrorist attack on America last year on Sept. 11.

The executive order is authorized under Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allows noncitizens to receive immediate naturalization through their active duty service in the U.S. armed forces during periods of military hostilities, “if the president designates by executive order that the armed services are or were engaged in armed conflict with a hostile foreign force.” Bush's executive order designates that the armed services have been engaged in armed conflict, specifically against “terrorists around the globe,” since 9/11.

“Thousands of our men and women in uniform were born in other countries and now spend each day in honorable service to their adopted land. Many of them are still waiting for the chance to become American citizens because of the waiting period for citizenship. These men and women love our country. They show it in their daily devotion to duty. Out of respect for their brave service in this-time of war, I have signed an executive order allowing them an immediate opportunity to petition for citizenship in the United States,” Bush said on the 226th birthday of the United States.

U.S. immigration law also allows special consideration during peacetime for men and women in the armed forces who were born in other countries. INA Section 328 allows noncitizen members of the military to become citizens after three years of service instead of the usual five-year wait required of those who do not serve in the military.

Giving special consideration to aliens serving in the military serves two purposes according to the White House: (1) to reward those serving the United States and (2) to maximize the government's investment in the training of young men and women born outside the United States by permitting them to advance in the military, into positions like commissioned or warrant officers and special “warfare programs,” such as the Navy SEALS, which require citizenship.

This is not the first time a United States president has granted special consideration to noncitizens serving in the military.

The July 4 executive order by Bush is similar to the one signed by Pres. Jimmy Carter following the Vietnam War and that signed by Pres. Bill Clinton following the Persian Gulf War.

More than 100,000 people who entered and served the United States military as aliens during World Wars I and II, Korean, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf wars have emerged as naturalized American citizens because of INA's Section 329.


Source: Human Events; 3/14/97, Vol. 53 Issue 10, p5, 1/3p

In congressional testimony March 5, Assistant Atty. Gen. Stephen Colgate admitted that 71,557 of the 1,049,872 immigrants naturalized under Citizenship USA which naturalized aliens between September 1995 and September 1996-were made citizens without undergoing the FBI criminal background check required by law. In the case of an additional 66,000, he said "there was no evidence" that an FBI check was ever conducted.

"These numbers will change" as a review of INS' naturalizations is conducted by the independent finn of Peat Marwick, he said.

Colgate's testimony came in an unusual joint hearing held by two House subcommittees exploring abuses in last year's Citizenship USA/INS naturalization program. Rep. Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.), chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice, and Rep. Lamar Smith (R.-Tex.), chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, co-chaired the hearings.

The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) review of illegally naturalized criminal aliens is scheduled to he completed at the end of April, at which time, Hastert said, "We'll he taking a look at this again" in another hearing.

So far, said Colgate, the files of 9,000 of the 71,557 new citizens with FBI records (which can include simply arrests or misdemeanor convictions) have been checked, and "168 have been deemed 'presumptively ineligible' for citizenship.

"A procedure will begin to revoke their citizenship," he said. In such a procedure, immigrants have a right to a hearing in court and could overturn the INS' decision.

Rep. Sonny Bono (R.-Calif.) exposed another problem in the system. "Before Mar. 1, 1997, an applicant [for citizenship] could go anywhere to get his fingerprints taken?" he asked. Colgate admitted that was so and conceded there was no guarantee that the fingerprints turned in by immigrants under Citizenship USA were actually theirs.

"I wonder if the motto of this administration is 'Mistakes were made,'" mused Rep. Ed Bryant (R.-Tenn.). "We've heard that not just here, but across the board."

Bryant brought up internal White House e-mails written by aides in Vice President Gore's National Performance Review office that imply that Citizenship USA was designed to produce Democratic-leaning voters in time for the 1996 elections. Under tremendous pressure from the White House, Citizenship USA produced almost triple the previous record number of new citizens in a year. (See HUMAN EVENTS, Sept. 13, 1996, cover.)

For example, aide Doug Farbrother e-mailed Gore on Mar. 28, 1996, "I had bet Elaine [Kamarck, another Gore aide] that INS headquarters would not give their managers ... enough authority, in general, to make me confident that they could produce a million new citizens before election day." As it turned out, the INS did end up meeting Farbrother's goal.

President Clinton was also personally interested in the program. When the INS initially refused to streamline its procedures to accommodate Gore's office, Kamarck emailed Farbrother March 21, "The President is sick of this and wants action."

In response to these revelations, Democrats cited internal INS audits, such as one by the General Accounting Office in 1989, during the Bush Administration, which showed that the INS was failing then to check immigrants' FBI records.


Source: Monica Coccia Staples High School, Westport, CT