Congress (NSDA 2024): A Resolution to Amend the Congress (NSDA 2024): Constitution to Change the Requirements for Presidential Candidacy

The U.S. Constitution currently requires the President to be a "natural born citizen", which is generally interpreted to mean someone who was a U.S. citizen at birth, either by being born on U.S. soil or to U.S. citizen parents.  This is the dominant interpretation, though this article notes "There is some uncertainty over whether a person that is born outside the U.S. but still becomes a citizen at birth through a statute is a natural born citizen."

This provision effectively bars naturalized U.S. citizens, who gained citizenship later in life, from being eligible for the presidency.

There are compelling arguments on both sides regarding whether this requirement should be removed. Here is an overview of some key pros and cons:

Pros of Removing the Natural Born Citizen Requirement

  1. It would eliminate a form of discrimination and allow all U.S. citizens to be eligible for the highest office, regardless of place of birth. Many argue the current rule creates an unjust "second-class citizenship" for naturalized Americans. As this op-ed puts it: "The principle of equal rights for all citizens is one of the shining lights of our democracy. The constitutional provision that limits presidential eligibility to natural born citizens is a direct assault on this principle."
  2. The original purpose of the clause is obsolete. It likely originated from a concern that a European power could install a monarch, but this is no longer a realistic scenario. Legal scholars argue "it really makes no sense to discriminate against naturalized citizens when it comes to the presidency, assuming it ever did in the first place."
  3. Loyalty and competence have little to do with place of birth. As this article argues: "Barring naturalized citizens from eligibility for the presidency is little different from discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender. Such unchosen circumstances of birth say nothing about a person's competence or moral fitness for office."
  4. Naturalized citizens can already hold every other high office, such as governor, senator, or Supreme Court justice. The presidential exception is inconsistent. If birthplace is irrelevant for other key positions, it's unclear why it matters uniquely for the presidency.
  5. Globalization makes arguments against it irrelevant. 

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