Copyright (c) 2005 Trustees of Boston University
Boston University Law Review
ARTICLE: NATURAL BORN' IN THE USA: THE STRIKING UNFAIRNESS AND DANGEROUS AMBIGUITY OF THE CONSTITUTION'S PRESIDENTIAL QUALIFICATIONS CLAUSE AND WHY WE NEED TO FIX IT
85 B.U.L. Rev. 53
By Sarah Helene Duggin* and Mary Beth Collins**
Article II of the United States Constitution mandates: "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." 1 The Twelfth Amendment establishes identical prerequisites for the Vice Presidency, 2 and the current federal succession statute permits only individuals "eligible to the office of President under the Constitution" 3 to act as President in the event that both the President and Vice President are unable to fulfill the obligations of office. 4 While the language of this portion of Article II may appear clear on its face, few constitutional provisions are actually so opaque. Who is a "natural born Citizen"? 5 Does the category encompass only persons born within the geographic boundaries of the fifty states, or does it include individuals born in Puerto Rico and other United States territories? 6 What about Native Americans born on tribal lands, 7 or children born to American parents living abroad? 8 Does the Fourteenth Amendment's declaration that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside" 9 alter the original meaning of Article II? The answers to these questions have proven intractably elusive throughout our nation's history.
The exclusivity of the natural born citizenship proviso has caused both politicians and scholars to describe it as anachronistic ...
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