Who is a Natural Born American?

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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“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.”

            The Constitution of the United States of America, Article II, Section 1

Oliver Stone, Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis made a necessary parody out of a quasi-remake of Bonnie and Clyde’s trek across America in a rinky dinky car with weapons on board and mayhem along the way, claiming their birth right on American soil. That is the liberal Hollywood, which elected a conservative Ronald Reagan first governor and then president, later a moderate Kennedy Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger governor during whose term the vast gay community of San Francisco backed by the legendary gay activism of Harvey Milk failed to legalize gay marriage in its Supreme Court, making a point about justice in the Wild West gone berserk. Clint Eastwood feels better.

The United States of America, as a young nation of immigrants, has always experienced excruciating pangs of integrating new comers to its shores, white, black or brown, Protestant, Catholic or Jewish or now Islamic. This is the reality of immigration throughout history going back tens of thousands of years and America is no different. Genetics proves it. That it is proven does not mean that that should be the psyche of social integration.

The birth of the nation that is United States is rooted in migration, colonization and the internal displacement of the peoples of other nations, as had been the case elsewhere throughout history since time immemorial, followed by a new ideology of freedom whose ambition it is to encapsulate all of civilization, though that civilizational trek into the cultures of the Americas has not yet been consummated.

The first immigrants to the Americas had arrived about 14,000 years ago, on foot across an ice bridge from Asia. They were immigrants because their race was biologically fully formed by the time they had arrived. With changing technology came the Europeans on boats from about 800 C.E (Erik the Red) and then Christopher Columbus, almost 700 years later, in 1492 and Amerigo Vespucci, the first from Northern Europe and then from Southern Europe, before the beginning of its colonization by the English after the defeat of the Spanish Armada at the hands of Queen Elizabeth I.

Colonial America, since Virginia, John Smith, Pocahontas (who died in England) and John Rolfe, and later Massachusetts Bay because of the maps of Smith, is the United States of today. The Constitution was conceived as a result of the history of the 13 colonies before they had expanded, due to Lewis and Clark and Sacagaewa, Westward after the republic was established in 1787.

The naturalized colonists, including the Founding Fathers, had allowed themselves access to the Office of the President because they had established the new nation-state as a matter of opportunistic geopolitics which always is dressed up in the myth and ideology of purpose, a purpose geopolitically executed west of Missouri by Thomas Jefferson and later east into Europe, beginning with Woodrow Wilson in 1917, to transform the structure of governance of the nations of the world from the theocratic aristocracies of Europe to the secular democracy of the United States.

Intrusion and influence by foreign powers in the internal affairs of the United States, primarily European, the forebears of colonial Americans, a real and present danger, until the end of the Civil War in 1865, to the new republic, was what had produced the above cited paragraph from the Constitution that qualifies citizens for the presidency. The key phrase that was meant to safeguard against such undesirable influence is “natural born.” But what does that mean?

Natural born means: natural born after the document, the US Constitution, which stated it, became operational in 1787 as the law of the land. It means not born of the earth but born of the mother. No American colonist before 1787 was a natural born American. All Americans born after 1787 to an American mother (even if those mothers had been naturalized upon the ratification of the Constitution by the states), for this is the meaning of being natural born, no matter who the father is and no matter where the mother ― red, white or black ― is physically located in the world as long as she is validated as American by her Certificate of Live (American) Birth. That American males could bear non-natural born Americans if they father children with non-American women does not mean that they lose their legal rights as biological fathers.

Science could force the interpretation of surrogacy, a developing trend among American women, within the bounds of the existing Constitution, only to mean: of a fertilized egg from an American mother no matter whose womb is used to incubate the fetus, because natural birth is only feasible when a woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm inside a woman’s womb. Therefore, a womb that cannot conceive of its own accord cannot be held accountable for the purposes of the presidential prospects of the child if the woman is fertile. If the woman is infertile, the egg donated by another American woman can be used for the purposes of surrogacy, within or outside the United States, for fertilization with any sperm, American or non-American.

Under this interpretation of the Constitution, what matters is not the Certificate of Live Birth in the State of Hawai’i in 1961 of President Barack Hussein Obama to qualify him for the presidency, but that of his 1942 Kansas born American mother Stanley Ann Dunham, no matter where in the world the President was born or to any father, American or non-American.

The critical implication of this argument is that no child born on American soil to a non-American mother can be treated as a natural born American or American until naturalized. It would then be up to immigration law to permit all children born on American soil to non-American mothers to be naturalized upon birth or through other procedural means later but deprived of seeking the presidency. Adopted foreign children by American parent(s) would continue to be treated as naturalized citizens.

If the Supreme Court of the United States were to take up a case that challenges citizenship by birth (on American soil) of the children of non-American women, and if the Court were to rule as above, all children born to women who were not American at the time of their children’s birth could be permitted automatic naturalized status by the Court given that the precedence of citizenship by birth would be overturned and just as all Colonial Americans were naturalized in 1787. Going forward, however, all such children may have to be subject to standard naturalization procedures.

The arguments of many conservatives, therefore, do not require amending the Constitution but interpreting it the way it ought to be. If your mother is American you should get a birth certificate. Else, you should be given a path toward a naturalization certificate. Being American is matrilineal by the Constitution.

Should we citizens of the United States wish to amend the Constitution to say something different, such as the removal of the phrase “natural born” completely, under the presumption that foreign dangers no longer exist for the sovereignty of the United States should a non-natural born American become president, this is both our prerogative and a responsibility we bear, balancing the risks of national security and the desire of the rising number of non-natural born American immigrants to play a more integrated role in our political life as this century progresses.

Even though Article V of the Constitution says so, driven by an undercurrent of political coup d’etat, abusing their legislative authority as the people’s representatives without a sense for the people’s will, the Constitution should not be amended arbitrarily by the 535 elected representatives and their counterparts in the states.


About Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa

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One Response to Who is a Natural Born American?

  1. Mary Putnam has argued with me that “natural born” means born to an American father and mother citing The Law of Nations of Chapter 19 Sec 212 by Emmerich de Vattel because the phrase “law of nations” appears in Article I. First, The Law of Nations was not the only declared basis of the Constitution of the United States by the Framers. Second, it is not clear if the Framers are indeed referencing Vattel in Article II Section 1.5 even though the likelihood is high that they are given that they referenced it in Article I. That said, it is also just as likely that they deliberately did not reference The Law of Nations because they wanted to leave the interpretation of the phrase “natural born” open to interpretation and judgment. Therefore, it would be unwise to ascribe any specific intent to the Framers and accept the phrase for what it literally means. Third, Vattel’s definition “Natives, or natural-born citizens, or those born in the country, of parents who are citizens” is seriously deficient in jurisprudence because it appears to (a) presume a married man and a woman in compliance with the conservative social norms of the times implying that bastards born in the country are not natural-born citizens; (b) deny homosexuality, and (c) his language elsewhere in the same section describes a country generically as a land inherited from the fathers, indicative of bias against women. If we assume that the Framers did use The Law of Nations as the sole basis for the Constitution, the assumption explains why women were denied the right to vote until the 19th Amendment in 1920. Therefore, The Law of Nations is merely an opinion that does not pass the test of “all Men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, a canonical founding document of the United States because without it there would not have been a Constitution by 1787. The phrase “naturally conceived” includes the citizen father in the conjugal relationship with the citizen mother and this is what Vattel should have used to include fathers in his definition.

    I would, therefore, affirm that the phrase “natural born” as used in the Constitution means born to a mother, vaginally, and by other scientific means as medicine advanced since 1787. Therefore, “natural born citizen” means born to an American mother.

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