Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is John McCain Eligible to Be President?

Mccain_context As we reported a while back, John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone.  Is he eligible to be President?

Section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution provides that “ 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. ” (emphasis added).  McCain is past 35 but is he a "natural born Citizen"?

Three major candidates have sought the Presidency who were born outside the United States: Barry Goldwater (1964) was born in Arizona while it was still a U.S. territory, George (Mitt's Dad) Romney (1968) was born in Mexico to U.S. parents, and now John McCain (2000, 2008.  The Panama Canal Zone, where McCain was born, was under United States sovereignty between 1903 and 1979.  McCain is the presumptive 2008 Republican nominee for President.

In 1790, Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which gave citizenship to children born overseas — but only when the father was a U.S. citizen. In 1934, it was extended to include the children of mothers who were American citizens. But whether people born in those circumstances can serve as president has never been set in legal concrete because it has never been challenged, according to Dean Alex Aleinikoff (Georgetown).  "The Constitution does not say you have to be born in the United States, so there is room to decide what 'natural born' means, but the informal interpretation that we all accept has never been tested," he said. "Clearly, though, Article 3 of the Constitution indicates anybody who is naturalized is not natural born, and this is a ridiculous provision," he said in an interview.

Any thoughts?  For an interesting politcal analysis finding McCain to be eligible to be President, click here and here.  Charles Gordon has a great 1968 article outlining the relevant issues, which were then (as now) hot given the candidacy of Michigan Governor George Romney (born to U.S. citizen parents in Mexico) for President.  Download gordon_article


| Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Is John McCain Eligible to Be President?:


Re any thoughts - I have some here.

Posted by: Simon | Feb 16, 2008 9:18:59 PM

It's very simple, to me. He has been a citizen from the moment of his birth, by virtue of the laws in effect at the time of his birth. He is, therefore, not "naturalized." As I point out in comments to the post which Simon links to above, the citizenship status of children born of ambassadors and other agents of a country serving abroad was well-settled in the common law. They were citizens of their parent's country, period. It's not nearly as complicated as some people are making it.

Posted by: PatHMV | Feb 27, 2008 10:56:43 AM

I was also born in the Canal Zone in 1953, of US citizens. I was always told I was a natural born citizen. I was never "naturalized" but I do have a Certificate of Citizenship which says clearly that I am considered a natural born citizen of the USA. The only reason I needed the Certificate was that according to Panama law, I could have chosen to be a Panamanian citizen. They, in fact, recognize dual citizenship. There is some question as to whether the USA recognizes dual citizenship. I was told that if I ever voted in a Panamanian election that I would forfet my US citizenship. I don't know if that is true or not, it was just what I was told.

The fact remains that the certificate that I have says that I am a natural born citizen.


Posted by: Randy | Feb 27, 2008 7:23:15 PM

randy, don't worry, you could safely have dual-citizenship if you'd like.

here is an excerpt from the wikipedia "United States citizenship" article, "Loss of Citizenship" section:

"However, a line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions beginning with Afroyim v. Rusk (1967) constitutionally limited the government's capacity to terminate citizenship to those cases in which an individual engaged in conduct with an intention of abandoning their citizenship. In the wake of administrative practice changes adopted by the U.S. Department of State during the mid 1990s, it is now virtually impossible to lose one's citizenship without expressly renouncing it before a U.S. consular officer."

Posted by: derek | Feb 28, 2008 7:54:18 PM

Post a comment