A crash course in citizenship

While browsing my blogroll this morning, I saw that “birthers” are planning a protest in Washington to challenge President Barack Obama’s legitimacy as a natural-born American. As I read the article, it amazed me just how uninformed people are when it comes to American citizenship requirements. Before I continue, let me clarify that I believe Obama was born in Hawaii and that this is for argument’s sake only.

We’re all taught early on that a person must be a “natural-born” U.S. citizen in order to become president. This can obviously mean being born on U.S. soil. What many people (including “birthers”) don’t know is that there are two paths to American citizenship at birth — jus soli and jus sanguinis.

Jus soli (of the soil) refers to the physical location of a person’s birth. Jus sanguinis (by blood) refers to a person’s ancestry. A person born of non-citizen parents in the U.S. would be a natural-born American citizen by virtue of jus soli. A person born in the U.S. of American-citizen parents would be a natural-born American citizen by virtue of both jus soli and jus sanguinis. And a person born abroad of two American-citizen parents or an American-citizen mother would also be a natural-born American citizen by virtue of jus sanguinis, even if they don’t meet the jus soli requirement. The U.S. uses both, and both can be met exclusively.

Yes, kids. This means that even if Barack Obama had been born in Kenya, he would still be a natural-born U.S. citizen because his mother was a U.S. citizen, by virtue of jus sanguinis.

(Lest I be accused of playing favorites, this principle also applies to John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone to two American parents, while the Zone was a U.S. territory but before Congress had formally hashed out the citizenship of those born in the Zone.)

Now can the “birther” movement die already?


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