COMMENTARY | At the gym last night I watched on the wall-mounted television as pundits debated whether or not senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was born in Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother, was a “natural-born” citizen eligible to run for president. It was a moment of delicious irony as conservatives, many of whom had likely enjoyed the pressure put on Democratic president Barack Obama to release his birth certificate over allegations that the man was born in Kenya instead of Hawaii, vociferously defended Cruz as a “natural-born” citizen. Those who waxed eloquent on the need to determine whether or not Obama was a “natural-born” citizen in 2008 and 2012 have suddenly decided that “natural-born” doesn’t matter where you are born, just that one of your parents was an American. So, basically, by this logic, Obama would have been a natural-born citizen even if he was born in Kenya due to his mother being a U.S. citizen.
Delicious irony aside, a big issue awaits. If conservatives do manage to wrangle a consensus that Cruz, born in Calgary, is a natural-born citizen, what does that mean for immigration reform? Cruz, for his part, is renouncing any claims to Canadian citizenship and trying to shore up the idea that he is indeed a natural-born citizen, reports NBC. But before Republicans jump on board and try to ensure that one more rising star is eligible for 2016, they might need to consider some painful hardball politics that might arise…
First, if having one U.S. citizen parent is all it takes to be a natural-born U.S. citizen, eligible for the presidency, much wind will be taken out of the sails of those opposed to more immigration to the United States. Conservatives who oppose relaxed immigration policies should be wary of supporting Cruz, though they may like his politics, because it would be hard for the son of a Cuban, born in Canada, to crack down on the U.S.-Mexico border from the Oval Office without looking quite the hypocrite.
Secondly, if Cruz is a natural-born citizen by virtue of having only one American parent, regardless of the location of his birth, doesn’t that give tremendous support to the concept that having one U.S. citizen parent, sibling, or child should not allow other family members to be deported? If a man from split-citizenship parentage, born in a foreign land, can run for president, shouldn’t that mean that families here in the U.S. should not be forcibly broken up because some members were born in a foreign land? Allowing Cruz to pursue the highest office in the land makes it tough to justify breaking up split-citizenship marriages or partnerships, and leave U.S.-born kids without one or more parents, through deportation.
Whether it is right or wrong for Cruz to be considered a natural-born citizen, the results of the fight will have big ramifications on the immigration reform debate. Conservatives should be aware of this and adjust their tactics accordingly.