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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Looking Up the Law Is Such a Pain for Birthers



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Over on the homepage, Bob Costa breaks the news that Ted Cruz is thinking about running for president in 2016. A few weeks back, Elaina Johnson shined a spotlight on the Cruz “birthers.

Some Birthers sound like they’ve never really read the law that they’re allegedly citing.

The whole reason anyone would care about the location of Obama’s birth is because his parents’ citizenship status did not automatically qualify him for U.S. citizenship:

When one parent was a US citizen and the other a foreign national, the US citizen parent must have resided in the US for a total of 10 years prior to the birth of the child, with five of the years after the age of 14.  An exception for people serving in the military was created by considering time spent outside the US on military duty as time spent in the US.

Barack Obama Sr. was a Kenyan citizen. The president’s mother, Ann Dunham, was a U.S. citizen but not yet a citizen  for the purposes of determining U.S. citizenship of offspring born overseas.

For a child to become a U.S. citizen, one parent must have resided in the United States for five years after the age of 14. Dunham was 18 when she gave birth to the president. Had Barack Obama Jr. been born in Kenya, he would not be a citizen; because he was born in Hawaii, he automatically became a U.S. citizen. This is what the whole current “birthright citizenship” debate is about – under current law and the law in effect in 1961, if you’re born here, you’re a citizen, no questions asked.

(I know, I know, the Honolulu Advertiser birth notice was an elaborate cover, and the birth certificate is faked, and there’s a vast conspiracy out there…)

These rules were in effect for those born between December 23, 1952 and November 13, 1986 – covering both Barack Obama and Ted Cruz.

Cruz’s mother, Eleanor Darragh, was in her mid-thirties when she gave birth to the senator, so she had spent well more than five years residing in the United States.


Tags: Ted Cruz , Barack Obama


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