Five people in northern Alabama have filed a federal lawsuit claiming Texas congressman Ted Cruz is ineligible to run for president.
Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father.
The U.S. Constitution limits the presidency to ‘natural born’ U.S. citizens. There are differences of opinion on whether or not the federal courts have established what those two words mean.
Cruz’s eligibility has been a frequent campaign theme of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner.
SCROLL DOWN TO READ THE LAWSUIT
THEY WANT TO KNOW: Five Alabama supporters of Donald Trump are asking a federal court to declare that Canadian-born Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is ineligible to run for president
DRUMBEAT: Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, has said repeatedly that Ted Cruz’s citizenship could become a problem for the Canadian-born politician
One other lawsuit, filed by an attorney in Texas, has already sought to have a judge untangle the question of Cruz’s U.S. bona fides.
But this is the first from voters who argue that their rights would be violated if his name were to be placed on Election Day ballots.
A Cruz spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said only that he wasn’t aware of the legal action.
‘I haven’t seen it,’ he told DailyMail.com in an email.
The lawsuit seeks a ‘declaratory judgment’ from a federal judge ‘declaring that Rafael Edward Cruz is ineligible to qualify/run/seek and be elected to the Office of President of the United States of America.’
The plaintiffs, Sebastian Green, Shannon Duncan, Kathryne Spears, Kyle Spears and Jerry Parker are all supporters of Trump’s candidacy, according to AL.com.
‘Mr. Cruz cannot be a natural born citizen of two (2) countries,’ the five argue. ‘This would violate elementary rules of logic. Since the Defendant, at the moment of birth, was located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; he became a citizen of Canada by virtue of it.’
‘Plaintiffs allege that at the time of Mr. Cruz’s birth, the United States could not confer citizenship upon him under any law or legal theory that exists. “Natural born” means native born within the United States or its dominions/territories. Canada is not a territory of the United States. Whether the Defendant’s mother was/is a United State’s citizen is irrelevant.’
The lawsuit states that Cruz’s U.S. citizenship was ‘conferred by other means’ than the situation of his birth.
And ‘if Mr. Cruz were allowed to run as a candidate, the Plaintiffs’ right to have only lawful and constitutionally qualified candidates to run would be violated.’
Cruz is himself a constitutional lawyer and former solicitor general of Texas, a job where he argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
He has insisted that the ‘birther’ argument is a non-starter floated for political purposes. He maintains that since he is not a naturalized citizen, he is ‘natural born’ under the Constitution’s definition.
But Trump has repeatedly talked on the campaign trail about Cruz’s place of birth, urging the senator to seek the very kind of declaratory judgment the five Alabama plaintiffs are asking for.
Trump has said if Cruz were to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Democratic partisans could sue in order to have his candidacy nullified, throwing the GOP into chaos just a few months before the November election.
During a GOP debate last month he conceded that he was making Cruz’s citizenship an issue ‘because now he’s doing a little bit better.’
Since then, Cruz won the Iowa caucuses and placed third in the New Hampshire primary.
In the January 14 debate, Trump joked that ‘he’s got probably a four or five percent chance’ of winning the Republican nomination.
‘There’s a big overhang,’ Trump said, telling Cruz ‘there’s a big question mark’ hanging over his head. ‘You can’t do that to the party. You have to have certainty.’
‘I’m not bringing a suit, I promise, but the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit,’ Trump predicted.
Cruz shot back that ‘the legal issue is quite straightforward.
‘I’ve spent my entire life defending the Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court. And I’ll tell you, I’m not gonna be taking legal advice from Donald Trump,’ he said.
Two weeks later aboard Trump’s private plan on the tarmac in Des Moines, Iowa, the billionaire real estate developer told DailyMail.com that ‘Cruz has a real problem.’
‘They’ve got to rule. He’s got to go for a declaratory judgment,’ he said of the federal courts.
And reflecting on the Cruz campaign’ challenge for a one-on-one debate, he said he would debate Cruz – in Canada – ‘to give him home-field advantage.’
Lewandowski had said Cruz’s proposal was a ‘publicity stunt.’
‘What we’ve said to Ted Cruz: Go into court, seek a declaratory judgment to find out if you’re even legally eligible to run for president of the United States,’ he told Boston radio host Jeff Kuhner, himself a Canadian.
‘Once you’ve gotten that ruling from the federal judge and you’re the last man standing in this presidential contest next to Donald Trump, we’ll be happy to have a debate with you one-on-one, anywhere you want, because that’s the way the system works.’
‘But as it stands right now,’ Lewandowski said then, ‘we don’t even know if Ted Cruz is legally eligible to run for president of the United States.’
A CANADIAN BIRTH, A CUBAN FATHER AND A CONSTITUTIONAL CONUNDRUM: CAN TED CRUZ BE A ‘NATURAL BORN CITIZEN’ AND THEREFORE PRESIDENT?
Ted Cruz is not the first presidential candidate to face a ‘birther’ controversy – but this one is very different from the questions over Barack Obama’s place of birth.
With Cruz the facts are in no doubt. Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada on 22 December 1970.
His mother was at the time an American citizen, having been born in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1934.
His father was a Cuban who had been previously resident in the United States but was not at the time a US citizen.
Cruz is therefore automatically, under the 1795 Naturalization Act, a citizen, as that law says that the children of US citizens born overseas are themselves US citizens.
It is qualified by further legislation, starting with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, a piece of legislation which has been repeatedly updated.
In its current form, it says that for a child born between December 24 1952 and November 14 1986, to a US citizen and an alien, the US citizen has to have had ‘physical presence’ in the US for ‘a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen’ for their child to be a citizen at birth.
There is no dispute that Cruz’s mother, who was born and brought up in Delaware and worked in New Orleans and Texas before moving to Canada in her early 30s meets that requirement.
But the facts end – and the legal dispute begins – with the Constitution and its requirement that presidents be ‘natural born citizens’.
It is the only place the phrase appears in current US law and crucially, the Supreme Court has never ruled on what precisely it means.
There is a key division of legal opinion on whether to qualify to be a ‘natural born citizen’ is a higher bar than simply being a citizen from birth.
One strand of opinion – which Cruz says is flatly wrong – holds that being ‘natural born’ means born in the United States. That would have ruled other previous contenders ineligible too, including John McCain (born in a military base in Panama), George Romney, father of Mitt, (born in Mexico to American missionary parents) and Barry Goldwater (born in Arizona when it was a territory, not a state).
The other strand of opinion says that the 1795 act defines who is born with citizenship, and that means Cruz is – and for that matter McCain and others were – eligible for the presidency.
Certainly a citizen: Ted Cruz’s mother, Eleanor Darragh, was born in Delaware, making her a US citizen, and therefore her children too. But the law on whether her foreign-born son is ‘natural born’ is in question
But the lack of a definitive judgment means that both opinions remain precisely that – even if the one Cruz opposes is, at least at the moment, apparently a minority.
If the case makes its way to the Supreme Court, the justices will have to work out what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote ‘natural born’ in the Constitution.
In fact, the direct question of whether a foreign-born citizen is ‘natural born’ has never even been raised in the federal courts until now.
No president has ever been proven to be born on foreign soil. Chester Arthur, the 21st president from 1881 to 1885, was rumored to have been born in Canada but denied it vehemently.
And President Obama faced questions over whether he was born in Kenya, eventually producing a birth certificate from Hawaii.
One small piece of clarity is that Cruz was born a Canadian citizen, because birth in Canada confers automatic citizenship unless the parents are diplomats. The Cruzes were not.
Cruz, a constitutional lawyer before his run for office, claimed in 2013 that he did not know that he was a Canadian citizen, when the issue of whether he was ‘natural born’ was first raised.