Saturday, August 24, 2013

On Immigration (and Voter Suppression)

The antics of Ted Cruz, are again in the news. This time it’s how he is addressing his citizenship status. As it turns out citizenship status is quite a study and it led me to some very unlikely places.
To review, all of this emerged out of a question to birther-of-the-first-order Donald Trump over whether Ted Cruz could legally be president. Trump garnered some fame, or should I say infamy, over his repeated demands to see President Obama’s long form birth certificate because he couldn’t possibly be president because he was black Kenyan having a Kenyan father and being born in Kenya.
Given that Ted Cruz was born in Canada, Trump was asked whether this disqualified him from ever being president and Trump answered that he was “perhaps not eligible” to be president.
And all of this attention is because Donald Trump is the world authority over who can, and who cannot be President of the United States I suppose.
But rather than just laughing it off, as we should do every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, it caused people to talk and Ted Cruz produced his Canadian birth certificate, but rightly claimed his American citizenship because his mother was an American.
Then Canada spoke up. Canadian law says that anyone born inside their national boundaries automatically becomes a natural born citizen of Canada. And because Canada and the United States both recognize dual citizenship, Ted Cruz is legally a dual citizen of both Canada and America.
Now does that status eliminate Cruz from eligibility according to the Constitution?
In truth, the Constitution says nothing about dual citizenship, maybe because the concept would have been foreign to the Founders (pun intended). But the meaning is clear – the Founders did not want someone with allegiance to another country to be President, and having someone with dual citizenship in the office of the President is problematic.
So because Ted Cruz is most definitely running for President in 2016, he announced last week that he would be renouncing his Canadian citizenship, making it all copasetic.
Interesting stuff. The original statute governing all of this is the Naturalization Law of 1790. Only this law deals with exactly what a “natural born citizen” is. The definition is, naturally, a white person born within the boundaries of the US (oops, sorry Mr. President) but also included children born abroad of American citizens to also be citizens.
But my research took a strange turn as I found that this law was superseded by subsequent laws that tweeked and adjusted things, most notably the Naturalization Law of 1798. This law extended the time period that an immigrant would have to reside in-country before becoming a citizen, extending it from  the original 2 year waiting period to 14 years.
Why do that?
Voter suppression.
It turns out that most of the people who would vote for Republican Party candidates, Thomas Jefferson being the most prominent at the time, and not for Federalist candidates were newly naturalized immigrants – former citizens of Ireland and France. What better way to keep them from voting for Jefferson than to prevent them from becoming citizens?
Voter Suppression!!!
But it didn’t work. Eventually Jefferson’s party took power anyway.
Then as now, voter suppression only serves the party whose adherents are suppressed.

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