Another birther conspiracy. This one also concerns a person of color. This time it is Kamala Harris.

A vice president must have the same three constitutional qualifications as a president. The person must be a “natural born Citizen” of the United States; must be at least thirty-five years old; and must have been a resident within the United States for at least fourteen years. (I know that many people don’t really want to believe that New York City where Trump was a resident for nearly all his life is part of the United States, but I don’t think anyone will suggest he does not meet the fourteen-years-a-resident requirement. His residency now is Florida where he can mingle with the people of a certain sort at Mar-a-Lago and where he has requested a mail-in ballot.)

Obama birthers focused on the “natural born Citizen” language. The requirement has been usually interpreted to mean that a person must be a citizen upon birth to qualify for the presidency and that a naturalized citizen cannot become president. However, the requirement in the Constitution’s Article II does not simply say “a born Citizen” or “a Citizen when born.” It includes the qualifier “natural.” What did this qualifier mean to the nineteenth century men who drafted and adopted the Constitution?

I don’t know, but if a person can be “natural born,” there must be people who are non-naturally born. Is it a “natural” birth within the meaning of our 1789 Constitution if the delivery was by caesarian section; if the baby was conceived by artificial insemination; if the mother used sedatives during labor? I don’t understand why those subject to conspiracy theories have not been presenting ideas on “natural.” Unfortunately, however, I don’t have any baseless, outlandish, stupid theories of how this word could disqualify Trump or anyone else.

The original Constitution used the term “citizen,” but it did not define how citizenship was obtained or what it meant. The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in the wake of the Civil War, states, “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.” Even the least able of constitutional scholars know that the purpose of the amendment was to give or ratify citizenship of Blacks. Any Black born in the United States is an American citizen. The Obama birthers claimed, without evidence, that he was born in Kenya or Indonesia or somewhere other than Hawaii. Although they presented no proof that he was born other than in the United States, they demanded that he produce a birth certificate, and after that, they whined for a long form birth certificate. Even after that was presented, some still grumbled about fraud or forgery.

However, even if Obama were born in Kenya, it would not tell us that he did not meet the constitutional requirement to be President—that he was not a natural born citizen. The Fourteenth Amendment does not purport to define the natural-born-citizen requirement of Article II, and it does not state that the only way you can be a citizen is to be born in the United States or to be naturalized. Consider two American citizens on a sojourn in a foreign land when a child is born unto them. That little miracle was not born in the U.S. and does not have the birthplace citizenship defined in the Fourteenth Amendment, but we have not required that child to be naturalized to become a citizen. There are other paths to citizenship than what is defined in the Fourteenth Amendment. A law confers citizenship on this foreign-born darling when delivered, and if the Constitution is requiring citizenship at birth, this love-of-their-lives in thirty-five years, if fourteen of them include residence in America, is eligible to be President. Obama was born to an American mother. If that made him a citizen at birth, the Fourteenth Amendment was irrelevant to whether he met the Article II requirement. The birthers, however, as far as I know, never addressed that when they said, erroneously, that he was not born in America.

The new nest of birthers concede that Kamala Harris was born in the United States but contend that somehow she still is not a natural born citizen. The argument has something (nonsense can never be fully understood) to do with the Fourteenth Amendment’s clause that a person born in this country is a citizen only if “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

This phrase was put into the Constitution because of Native Americans and diplomats. In legal theory, Indian tribes were sovereign nations, and their members were subject to tribal law. Americans may have only sporadically, at best, respected the sovereignty of Native Americans, but the drafters and adopters of the Fourteenth Amendment, while desiring Blacks to have citizenship, did not want citizenship for Native Americans and inserted that subject-to-the-jurisdiction-thereof clause to prevent birthright Indian citizenship.

The Fourteenth Amendment’s drafters and adopters did not want birthright citizenship for children born to diplomats on American soil either. Because of diplomatic immunity, diplomats and their families are not subject to the laws of the United States, and because of the restriction in the Civil War Amendment, children of diplomats born in the United States do not have automatic citizenship.

(continued August 24)

One thought on “Birthering Trump

  1. Thank you for the columns, and I always smile when I think of you and Mill. 😊

    Lynda Daleo 249 DeWitt Mills Road Hurley, NY 12443 (845) 399-1354 (iPhone)

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