So how did Judge Pellegrino of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania arrive at his decision that Cruz was eligible?
The judge relies on several pieces of legal scholarship. First, a memo produced in 1968 by Charles Gordon, then the General Counsel of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, which says: “The Framers were well aware of the need to assure full citizenship rights to the children born to American citizens in foreign countries.” He also points out a 2011 Congressional Research Service Memo entitled the “Qualification for President and the ‘Natural Born’ Citizenship Eligibility Requirement.” The document concludes:
“The weight of legal and historical authority indicated that the term ‘natural born’ citizen would mean a person, who is entitled to U.S. citizenship ‘by birth’ or ‘at birth’ either by being born ‘in’ the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; by being born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents.”
Then the judge spends four pages quoting from the recent work of Paul Clement & Neal Katyal in the Harvard Law Review, in which the two Constitutional scholars (from different sides of the political aisle) conclude that “as Congress has recognized since the Founding, a person born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent is generally a U.S. citizen from birth with no need for naturalization. And the phrase ‘natural born citizen’ in the Constitution encompasses all such citizens from birth.”
In his conclusion, the Judge states:
Having extensively reviewed all articles cited in the opinion, as well as many others, this Court holds, consistent with the common law precedent and statutory history, that a “natural born citizen” included any person who is a United States citizen from birth.Accordingly, because he was a citizen of the United States from birth, Ted Cruz is eligible to serve as President of the United States..
The judge’s decision is ripe for a higher court review, but it is significant nonetheless. As election law expert Dan Tokaji points out in the Election Law Blog this case could ultimately be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.
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