The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Eliminate Article II's Anomalous Birth Requirement, so "Made in America" Citizens May Run, With Gratitude, for President


Thank you to readers and commenters here this week. Your thoughtful consideration has improved my proposed amendment to render eligible for President all American citizens who meet the age and duration requirements of Article II. You have persuaded me to make two changes: (1) substitution of new 14-year length-of-citizenship requirement to replace current 14-year length-of-residency requirement; (2) addition of 6-year lag between ratification and effective date. You have also provided a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of various arguments for ratification. I am grateful. Now all that remains is to get the amendment ratified.

I modeled my proposal on one introduced in Congress May 18, 1868 by an Irish-born congressman from New York. Today, exactly 150 years later, I'm delighted to report that this proposed amendment has picked up senatorial support from an important committee chair. The Volokh Conspiracy gets results!

A few final thoughts.

  1. Anomalous Article II: If you were running a public company in the United States today, would you limit the CEO position to natural-born citizens? Be honest. Consider, too, whether POTUS is so distinct as to merit different treatment not only from how an American public company would define CEO eligibility but also from how the U.S. Constitution defines eligibility to be a federal lawmaker or life-tenured federal judge.
  1. Buy American: Federal law renders people eligible to become citizens after satisfying residency, knowledge, language, and good moral character requirements. Naturalized citizens who satisfy these requirements are Made in America. If the process is good enough to turn someone into an American citizen with all the other rights and responsibilities of citizenship, does it really make sense to withhold presidential eligibility alone? And whatever reason you might have for thinking it does make sense to withhold presidential eligibility alone, would it still make sense after also requiring fourteen years in America as an American citizen?
  1. Gratitude: Great Americans are grateful Americans. Deep gratitude for the gifts of earned American citizenship will distinguish any naturalized citizen who puts himself or herself forward to run for President of the United States. We need every little bit of this patriotic gratitude we can get in our public life. Naturalized American citizens should have the same right to run as their natural-born compatriots.

Let's shake off our civic sloth and undertake the ultimate exercise in American self-government; let's do our part to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity; let's amend the Constitution of the United States of America.

[UPDATE, from Eugene Volokh: Sorry, accidentally labeled this originally as my post; it's guest-blogger Kevin Walsh's.]