(Mr. Joseph is an attorney and author of Black Mondays: Worst Decisions of the Supreme Court)
Senator Ted Cruz, a leading Republican candidate for President, is ineligible to be President of the United States. He was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on December 22, 1970, to an American mother and a Cuban father. Donald Trump, when challenging President Obama's eligibility for President, said, "if you're not born in the United States, you cannot be president."
The issue is not quite as simple as Mr. Trump contends. The Constitution directly addresses the minimum qualifications necessary to serve as President. In addition to requiring thirty-five years of age and fourteen years of residency, the Constitution limits the presidency to "a natural born Citizen." U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 1, clause 5.
Natural Born Citizens
The origins of the Natural Born Citizenship Clause dates to a letter that John Jay wrote to George Washington on July 25, 1787. Mr. Washington was then president of the Constitutional Convention. Jay later authored several of the Federalist Papers and served as our first Chief Justice. At the time, as Justice Joseph Story later explained in his influential Commentaries on the Constitution, many of the framers worried about "ambitious foreigners who might otherwise be intriguing for the office." "Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Commander in chief of the American army shall not be given to nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen," John Jay wrote.
The Founding Fathers clearly wanted to avoid the potentiality of a president having loyalties to a foreign nation. Senator Cruz had loyalties to three nations: Canada, the United States and Cuba. It was not until May 14, 2014, that Senator Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship. The fact that both of his parents were not U.S. citizens puts in question his claim to being a "natural born" citizen.
George Washington thanked John Jay for his concerns about citizenship in a reply dated September 2, 1787. Shortly thereafter, the natural-born citizenship language appeared in the draft Constitution the Committee of Eleven presented to the Convention. There is no record of any debate on the clause.