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Drafting a definition for Natural Born Citizen

I’m working on a definition for Natural Born Citizen to be submitted to the Urban Dictionary. The current definitions there are highly unsatisfactory and have net negative response from those who rate them.

This blog has published definitions before including:

Unfortunately my original article is far too long to fit the 1500 character limit of the Urban Dictionary, and in any case, I want something short and easy to read. So here is a draft for comment. Keep in mind that the following is just 38 characters under the limit, so I can’t add anything substantial without removing something else.

A US Circuit Court said “all persons born in the allegiance of the United States are natural-born citizens. Birth and allegiance go together.” US v. Rhodes (1866). This principle has been cited approvingly by subsequent courts including the US Supreme Court in US v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) that said:

“The 14th Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including children here born of resident aliens, … The Amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States.”

Every nation has the exclusive right to determine by its own laws who are its citizens and who shall rule it, and therefore the Constitution and laws of the US (and no other country) determine who is born within its allegiance.

Current law would include as natural born citizens:

  • All persons born within the US (including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands) except the children of ambassadors
  • Persons born outside of the US to citizen parents (subject to certain restrictions in the legislation).

Full details of current law are included in the US State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, Volume 7, Section 1100 http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86755.pdf

Perhaps as an example I could add:

A legal dictionary from 1904 said:

“Every person born within the United States its territories or districts whether the parents are citizens or aliens is a natural born citizen within the sense of the Constitution and entitled to all the rights and privileges pertaining to that capacity Town of New Hartford v Town of Canaan 5 Atl, 360, 364, 54 Conn. 39 (citing Rawle Const. U. S. p. 86). See also Lynch v Clarke (N. Y.) 1 Sandf.  Ch. 584,  2 Kent,  Comm. (9th Ed.); McKay v Campbell (U. S.) 16 Fed. Cas. 157; Field Int. Code 132, Morse Citizenship § 203.”

Update!

The above definition was submitted to the Urban Dictionary and was rejected by the editors (the Urban Dictionary is edited by anybody that signs up to be an editor–all that is required is a valid email address) without explanation. However another accurate and concise definition was submitted and accepted. It has been well received, and I support it.

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31 Responses to Drafting a definition for Natural Born Citizen

  1. avatar
    Vince Treacy September 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    A friend of mine suggested something like this:

    A “natural born citizen” is a person who is entitled under the Constitution or laws of the United States to citizenship “at birth” or “by birth.”

    The term includes

    (1) a person born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction, that is, not born to foreign diplomats or to hostile occupying forces;

    (2) a person born abroad to two citizens; and

    (3) a person born abroad to one citizen, if that parent has met U.S. residency requirements.

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 30, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    That’s pretty clear.

  3. avatar
    misha September 30, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Dr C: I’m going to go with Vince’s entry. It is concise, like a dictionary entry should be. Yours is more suited to a legal dictionary, rather than for a layperson.

    There is no room for ambiguity.

  4. avatar
    Sally Hill September 30, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    I think everyone involved that has any concern for this matter is well aware what you ‘think’ the definition is, while they are well aware of the other sides ‘proposed’ definition.

    You are showing your anxiety by jumping ahead of the game to post a ‘definition’ for a term that has NEVER been legally defined.

  5. avatar
    Greg September 30, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    I suggest you read Wong Kim Ark again. Critical to the decision was the finding that “natural born” did not change meanings from the common law of England to its usage in the United States. From pages 655-675, the decision charts the history of the term “natural born” from its roots in the ancient history of England, through the Civil Rights Act of 1866. It finds no change in that term. It means the same thing when it has “subject” at the end or “citizen.”

    So, you’re just wrong when you say that no court has ruled on the definition of “natural born.” Wong did. If it hadn’t found that the term meant the same thing in England and the US, Wong couldn’t have been declared a citizen!

  6. avatar
    nBc September 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    Again you are missing the point, the legal definition has been provided in Wong Kim Ark, perhaps in dicta but it shows that ‘jus soli’ is the law of the land, not jus sanguini or Vattel.

    Under said definition, anyone born on US soil is a native/natural born citizen by birth. There are no further requirements for natural born, look for instance at Hamilton’s original proposal, before Jay wrote his letter, which argued that anyone born on US soil would be eligible to run for president. This combined with Jay’s letter forms a likely foundation for natural born which includes according to some, children born abroad to one or two us citizens.

    Logic my dear friend, combined with an understanding of citizenship law of those days and guided by the ruling of SCOTUS gets you to an inevitable conclusion.
    Of course, as with any definition, one can be wrong but SCOTUS is unlikely to hear such a case for lack of standing and jurisdiction.

  7. avatar
    JoZeppy September 30, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    Rather simple one from from the 6th ed. of Black’s Law dictionary (1990) (haven’t checked what is in the current edition)

    “Persons who are born within the jurisdiction of a national government, i.e. in its territorial limits, or those born of citizens temporarily residing aborad. See Jus soli; Naturalization clause.”

  8. avatar
    John September 30, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    Obama still has to prove that he was born in Hawaii. Then the natural born argument can be entertained. Since we do not know how Obama’s COLB is derived we have no coorborating evidence that he was born in Hawaii. On the other hand, there is a mountain of circumstancial evidence to strongly suggest Obama was born in Kenya:
    1. Kenyan Ambassador the day after the election affirmed Obama was born in Kenya.
    2. Kenyan assembly the day after the election virtually affirmed Obama’s Kenyan birth
    3. African new outlets referring to Obama as Kenyan-Born.
    4. Gahana referring to Africa as the “Continent of Obama’s birth”
    5. Kadaffi referring Obama as the son of Africa.(Kenyan Born)
    6. Pakistan stating that Obama was born in Kenya.
    7. Bill Richardson referring to Obama as immigrant.
    8. The Kenyan BC submitted by Lucas Smith.

    9. DNC multiple documents.

    10. Obama’s stubborn refusal to release his birth records.

    What’s even more interesting in that to date no one has come forward with credible information that witnessed Obama’s Hawaiin birth or were even there the date he was born.

  9. avatar
    Vince Treacy September 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    Although I agree on “jus soli,” Hamilton’s suggestion should be made clear, since it supports the definition even more strongly.

    Hamilton suggested words to the effect that the Presidency should be limited to present citizens and to those born hereafter as citizens.

    He supported persons born as citizens, not just persons born in the United States.

    The exception for citizens at the time of the Constitution was very important to him.

    He was born in the West Indies, not in the 13 colonies, and would not have been eligible without the grandfather clause.

  10. avatar
    JoZeppy September 30, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Obama has provided prima facie evidence of his Hawaiian birth. Everything you list is hearsay, and the Smith certificate isn’t even a convincing forgery. And why is it interesting (although not even accurate) that witness have come forward over 40 years after witnessing what would have been one of hundreds (if not thousands) of births they witnessed? Why should his have been so eventfull to remember it? Even more likely, what are the odds of them even being alive at this point? (the doctor who deliverd by kids is in his 50s, what are the odds of him being alive to see them in 40 years, or remembering he delivered them?)

  11. avatar
    Bob September 30, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    Obama still has to prove that he was born in Hawaii.

    Other than the COLB.

    Then the natural born argument can be entertained.

    Not by anyone who has actually studied the matter.

    Since we do not know how Obama’s COLB is derived we have no coorborating evidence that he was born in Hawaii.

    Per Hawaiian law, the information on the COLB comes from the birth certificate.

    1. Kenyan Ambassador the day after the election affirmed Obama was born in Kenya.

    A statement since retracted.

    2. Kenyan assembly the day after the election virtually affirmed Obama’s Kenyan birth

    And JFK was born in Berlin, no? It’s called “metaphorically speaking.”

    3. African new outlets referring to Obama as Kenyan-Born.

    Since retracted.

    4. Gahana referring to Africa as the “Continent of Obama’s birth”

    I would take you more seriously if you could even spell Ghana.

    5. Kadaffi referring Obama as the son of Africa.(Kenyan Born)

    Was he in delivery room in Mombassa?

    6. Pakistan stating that Obama was born in Kenya.

    Since retracted.

    7. Bill Richardson referring to Obama as immigrant.

    A political smear during a campaign? Never!

    8. The Kenyan BC submitted by Lucas Smith.

    The one booted by Judge Land for lacking autenticity?

    9. DNC multiple documents.

    Which don’t contract each other.

    10. Obama’s stubborn refusal to release his birth records.

    An act that would not solve an nonexistent problem? Does POTUS have that much free time?

    What’s even more interesting in that to date no one has come forward with credible information that witnessed Obama’s Hawaiin birth or were even there the date he was born.

    Aug. 4, 1961; it is on the COLB.

  12. avatar
    SFJeff September 30, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    John, for purposes of the election President Obama did prove his eligibility. Anyone who wish now to prove he is not eligible has the obligation to provide some evidence. What you have listed is a Birther dream list of partial truths or outright misrepresentations. Gather some actual evidence, provide it to Congress and demand impeachment.

  13. avatar
    John September 30, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    If in fact Obama is ineligible, the truth of his inelgibility will come out even if takes 8 years or after he has completed his term. Our history books will then reflect the following for all time: “Barack Hussein Obama the 44th President of the United States served his term as an INELIGIBLE Candidate.”

  14. avatar
    Greg September 30, 2009 at 3:16 pm #

    perhaps in dicta

    I strongly disagree that the definition of natural born is dictum in Wong. Obiter dictum, Latin for something said in passing, is something that is unnecessary to the decision. Mario and Leo want to believe that dicta is everything that isn’t the holding of the case. The definition of natural born is fundamental to Wong. Justice Gray spends 20 pages detailing why the definition of natural born hasn’t changed in 500+ years.

    There is no Wong Kim Ark without that part of the decision.

    It’s a pet peeve of mine.

  15. avatar
    Heavy September 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm #

    Just like Barry Bonds…*!

    I’m such a RACIST!

  16. avatar
    Black Lion September 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    John, if only you could provide some proof. I find it amazing how many of the so called birthers would consider testimony and a document from a convicted felon forger Lucas Smith. For instance if President Obama was relying on an affidavit and documents from a felon that could not be authenticated, the birthers would be screaming bloody murder. The COLB is certified by the State of HI and they don’t want to believe it. The bottom line is that guys like John would prefer to believe in complex conspiracies and scenario’s rather than common sense.

  17. avatar
    Bob September 30, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    The 8th Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary says, “Natural-born citizen clause: Barring persons not born in the United States from the presidency.”

    The 6th edition’s defintion also refers to jus soli, which is defined as “The principle that a person’s citizenship is determined by place of birth rather than by the citizenship of one’s parents.”

    Rawles’ Revision of Bouvier’s Dictionary (1897) states the meaning of natural-born citizen “must be gathered from the common law. At common law, a natural-born subject included every child born in England of alien parents….”

  18. avatar
    aarrgghh September 30, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    john daydreams:

    our history books will then reflect the following for all time: “barack hussein obama the 44th president of the united states served his term as an INELIGIBLE candidate.”

    i see the birfers are starting to cut back on their expectations. still unrealistic, but a line in a history book’s a bit less looney tunes than marching the usurper out of the white house in 30 days.

    a good sign.

  19. avatar
    nBc September 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

    That’s a risk to any and all presidents. What if we have to add President George W Bush, indicted and convicted for crimes against humanity?
    Is that a reason to have a president step down.

  20. avatar
    Black Lion September 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    Good article in the Washingto Independent…A telling quote from the article…

    http://washingtonindependent.com/61121/fear-of-fascism-gay-agenda-dominate-conservative-kickoff-for-midterm-elections

    “Off the stage, the fears and conspiracy theories about President Obama grew more obscure. One activist told TWI that Obama may have been “installed” after decades of lessons from Communists. Peggy Carter, an Eagle Forum leader from North Carolina, fretted that Obama was “anti-white,” and had only stealthily revealed that to Americans because “he can’t afford” to make it obvious.”

    “Some of the most prominent attendees told TWI that they had doubts about the president’s birth records. Rep. Cynthia Davis, a Republican state legislator in Missouri who has worked with “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz for most of this year, said that lawsuits demanding proof of the president’s citizenship were chiefly about the integrity of the Constitution, and that because Obama’s father was Kenyan, Obama’s eligibility problems extended beyond his birth records.”

    “Her credibility is questioned because she has an accent,” said Davis, defending Taitz, “and yet the reason she has an accent is because she came from a Communist country, and she knows how awful that is, to have a government usurped.”

  21. avatar
    Greg September 30, 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    Keep dreaming.

  22. avatar
    SFJeff September 30, 2009 at 4:43 pm #

    “If in fact Obama is ineligible, the truth of his inelgibility will come out even if takes 8 years or after he has completed his term.”

    IF President Obama was ineligible, I would certainly hope the truth would come out.

    How the history books would show it? I would imagine it really depends on the success of his Presidency. If at the end of 2 terms the economy is sound, and the U.S. hasn’t suffered an attack on our soil, I suspect the history books would certainly note those accomplishments along with a discussion of exactly why he was found to be ineligible.

    I wonder if Ronald Reagan was found tomorrow to have been ineligible to be President, what the history books would show now?

  23. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 30, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

    Thanks. This is an area where my fundamental knowledge is weak.

  24. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    What a pack of lies and smears! They aren’t even accurate copies of the original lies.

  25. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    Sally Hill: You are showing your anxiety by jumping ahead of the game to post a definition’ for a term that has NEVER been legally defined.

    The fact of the matter is that there are already half a dozen bad definitions of “natural born citizen” on the Urban Dictionary. If you think a definition is premature, then you should criticize those first before complaining about efforts to draft something better. Go over there and click the “thumbs down” button.

  26. avatar
    Dave Muckey September 30, 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Sally Hill: You are showing your anxiety by jumping ahead of the game to post a definition’ for a term that has NEVER been legally defined.The fact of the matter is that there are already half a dozen bad definitions of “natural born citizen” on the Urban Dictionary. If you think a definition is premature, then you should criticize those first before complaining about efforts to draft something better. Go over there and click the “thumbs down” button.

    And they are all from one poster, vicaryan.

  27. avatar
    Lupin October 1, 2009 at 2:39 am #

    In actuality, didn’t I read somewhere that some relative of Obama was there (in Hawaii, not at the hospital) and did remember when he was born?

  28. avatar
    Rickey October 1, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Black Lion: “Her credibility is questioned because she has an accent,” said Davis, defending Taitz, “and yet the reason she has an accent is because she came from a Communist country, and she knows how awful that is, to have a government usurped.”

    The irony being that the government which was usurped in Orly’s country was the government of the Czar, and we all know how the right-wingers now feel about czars!

  29. avatar
    Vince Treacy October 2, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    This thread seems to have dropped earlier comments, including my stab at a definition of natural born citizen, so I went ahead and posted a revised version, that I drafted with the help of a learned friend, at Urban Dictionary.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=natural+born+citizen

    There are already 43 thumbs up and no thumbs down.

  30. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 2, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Yes, I saw it last night. Very clear and concise. I think you will find all the earlier comments still there, just hit the “previous comments” (or whatever it is) link.

  31. avatar
    Vince Treacy October 2, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    Right.

    < Older Comments

    Got it.

    Thanks for a great site!