Huffpost Politics

Don Racheter Explains Iowa GOP Birther Platform

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The Iowa GOP’s 2012 platform includes a section that calls President Obama's citizenship into question, and the chairman of the platform committee says the plank is a "shot" at the president.

“There are many Republicans who feel that Barack Obama is not a ‘natural born citizen’ because his father was not an American when he was born and, therefore, feel that according to the Constitution he’s not qualified to be president, should not have been allowed to be elected by the Electoral College or even nominated by the Democratic Party in 2008, so this is an election year. It’s a shot at him,” Don Racheter told Radio Iowa.

Hoping to put birther theories to rest, the White House released Obama's birth certificate in April 2011, but discussion of the president's citizenship has cropped up across the country during the election year.

Last year, a Congressional Research Service report defined "natural born" citizen as a person born in the United States:

The term “natural born” citizen is not defined in the Constitution, and there is no discussion of the term evident in the notes of the Federal Convention of 1787. The use of the phrase in the Constitution may have derived from a suggestion in a letter from John Jay to George Washington during the Convention expressing concern about having the office of Commander-in-Chief “devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen,” as there were fears at that time about wealthy European aristocracy or royalty coming to America, gaining citizenship, and then buying and scheming their way to the presidency without long-standing loyalty to the nation. At the time of independence, and at the time of the framing of the Constitution, the term “natural born” with respect to citizenship was in use for many years in the American colonies, and then in the states, from British common law and legal usage. Under the common law principle of jus soli (law of the soil), persons born on English soil, even of two alien parents, were “natural born” subjects and, as noted by the Supreme Court, this “same rule” was applicable in the American colonies and “in the United States afterwards, and continued to prevail under the Constitution ...” with respect to citizens. In textual constitutional analysis, it is understood that terms used but not defined in the document must, as explained by the Supreme Court, “be read in light of British common law” since the Constitution is “framed in the language of the English common law.”

In addition to historical and textual analysis, numerous holdings and references in federal (and state) cases for more than a century have clearly indicated that those born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction (i.e., not born to foreign diplomats or occupying military forces), even to alien parents, are citizens “at birth” or “by birth,” and are “natural born,” as opposed to “naturalized,” U.S. citizens. There is no provision in the Constitution and no controlling American case law to support a contention that the citizenship of one’s parents governs the eligibility of a native born U.S. citizen to be President.

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