Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1970. His mother was American and his father was Cuban. Before his birth, Cruz’s parents moved from Houston to Canada to take jobs in the Alberta oil industry. The family returned to Texas in 1974.
Although born abroad, Cruz received U.S. citizenship at birth. The reason is because in 1970 federal law extended citizenship to foreign-born children of any American parent who had lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years before the child’s birth. In addition, the law required that five of those years come after the American parent turned 14. A similar law remains on the books today.
At the time of Cruz’s birth, his mother easily satisfied the law’s requirements. Mrs. Cruz was born and raised in Delaware, attended college in Texas, and didn’t move to Canada until after she turned 30 years of age. Those facts are crucially important. They show that when Mrs. Cruz gave birth to her son in Canada, she had American roots deep enough to confer U.S. citizenship on her son under federal law.
Ted Cruz is thus an American citizen by birth.
But is that enough to satisfy the Constitution? The fact is the Constitution does not permit all citizens to serve as president. Article II states: “No Person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.”
The Constitution thus requires that the president be a “natural born citizen,” not someone who secures citizenship by some other means.
That in turn gives rise to two crucial questions: Does “natural born citizen” mean the president must be born in the United States? Or does it simply mean the president must be a U.S. citizen at birth?
Unfortunately, the Constitution does not define “natural born citizen” and the Supreme Court has never interpreted the term.
Nevertheless, compelling evidence of the framers’ intent comes from the Naturalization Act of 1790. Passed by the First Congress, the act declared that “the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.”