Raphael Edward “Ted” Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, has formally renounced his Canadian citizenship.
Born in Calgary to an American mother and a Cuban father, the former dual citizen has been anxious to shore up his American credentials as he tests the waters for a possible 2016 presidential campaign.
Following the Dallas Morning News’s report on Cruz’s dual status last year—which was apparently a surprise to Cruz, who thought he was solely American—the senator began the renunciation process, which involves a judicial review and a $100 fee. On June 10, he received his official certificate of renunciation.
For the staunchly-conservative Cruz, a Tea Party favourite, the move signals more than just flag-waving. As a potential presidential candidate, the senator must carefully navigate his way around Article Two of the United States constitution, which states that “No person except a natural born citizen” shall be eligible to serve as president.
Since the constitution doesn’t precisely define what a “natural born citizen” is, the phrase is open to interpretation. Having been born to an American parent—even abroad—automatically confers American citizenship upon Cruz, but some say that isn’t enough. There is an argument that the framers of the Constitution intended for "natural born" to mean born within the United States itself.
Although the Supreme Court has never tackled the issue, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service—the official research office of the U.S. Congress—has offered an opinion. In 2011, the service reported that “The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term 'natural born' citizen would mean a person who is entitled to U.S. citizenship 'by birth' or 'at birth'.”
This isn’t the first time this issue has come up. In 1964, the Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater, was born in what was then the pre-statehood Arizona Territory. And the 2008 Republican nominee, John McCain, was born in Panama. Neither Goldwater nor McCain were elected president, however, and as a result their natural-born statuses were never legally tested.
At this point in time, the issue may be one of the easier hurdles Cruz must face.
Before any binding legal opinion on his natural-born status he must make it through a bruising series of presidential primaries, and then defeat the Democratic challenger, who is looking more and more likely to be the very deep-pocketed and well-connected Hillary Clinton.