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04/17/2017

John Vlahoplus: On The Meaning of “Considered as Natural Born”
Michael Ramsey

In the Wake Forest Law Review Online, John Vlahoplus (Independent): On The Meaning of “Considered as Natural Born”. Here is the introduction (footnotes omitted):

Scholars have long debated what to make of the provision in the Naturalization Act of 1790 that foreign-born children of American parents “shall be considered as natural born citizens . . .”  Did the Founders who sat in the First Congress use that phrase to tell us something important about the presidential eligibility of foreign-born citizens like Senator Ted Cruz? Did they intend to declare that foreign-born children of American parents are natural born citizens under the substantive constitutional meaning of the term? Alternatively, did they mean to tell us that anyone who is born a citizen is a natural born citizen, so that the Constitution they drafted and ratified gives Congress the power to define “natural born” status by granting statutory citizenship at birth? Or did they merely intend to naturalize the children without declaring or defining presidential eligibility?

Most scholars examine earlier uses of “natural born subject” to illuminate the meaning of “natural born citizen.”  None, however, have examined earlier uses of the phrase “considered as natural born” in order to understand its meaning in the final terms of the Naturalization Act of 1790.  This Article does.  It concludes that prescriptive uses like that in the Act merely naturalized persons or granted them limited rights enjoyed by the natural born, and that descriptive uses reflect an important feature of the controversy over colonial subject status prior to Independence.  Members of the First Congress did not use the phrase to mean someone who is a citizen at birth or eligible to the presidency.