One argument made against Barack Obama’s eligibility to be President is a claim that citizen parents are a tacit requirement in the words “natural born citizen” in the US Constitution.
Much of the rhetoric from Obama’s opponents is derived from another controversy over the citizenship of any kind for those born in the United States to alien parents. The US Supreme Court decided the question of what the 14th Amendment meant back in 1898 in the case of United States v Wong Kim Ark; however, there are those who argue that this ruling should not apply to the children of illegal immigrants or that the Supreme Court was wrong, or that the Constitution should be changed. Proposals to change the Constitution’s citizenship criteria have come before Congress every year for the past decade, and legislation both federal and state has been proposed to get around the expansive definition of citizenship in the Constitution.
A March 2011 issue brief from the American Constitution Society titled Born Under the Constitution: Why Recent Attacks on Birthright Citizenship are Unfounded by Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center, discusses the current political debate over birthright citizenship as well as its history in some detail. Federal and State proposed legislation is also covered.
The specific Obama controversy is rarely addressed directly in such papers, since the presidential eligibility of all persons born citizens in the United States is not really a matter of debate in the legal community. Nevertheless, since the arguments against Obama use the same gambits arrayed against citizenship of any kind for the children of non-citizens, much of it the ACS article is useful for our purposes. In one instance it does get specific, as Wydra says:
Just as the Citizenship Clause sets forth birth on U.S. soil as the condition for citizenship–”not race or bloodline–”Article II specifies that the relevant qualification for the presidency is birth-conferred citizenship, not any particular ancestry.
Wydra describes the argument over “allegiance” frequently put forward by Obama opponents as a “red herring…., misleading and flawed.” She relies on the Congressional debates over the 14th Amendment to make it clear what the universal understanding of Congress was, both among opponents and supporters of the measure: the naturalization status of a child’s parents doesn’t matter.