Media Mention

Ilya Somin: Let immigrants be president.

September 18, 2020

Note: this piece was originally published in USA Today, and was co-authored by Checks & Balances member Ilya Somin. 

This presidential election season joins the last several in being attended by accusations that certain candidates are ineligible because of the requirement in Article II of the Constitution that the president be not only a citizen, but a “natural born” citizen. This time around, some have claimed that Sen. Kamala Harris is ineligible for the presidency because, though born in the United States, her parents were immigrants who had not become citizens by the time of her birth.

We believe this claim is untenable. But the need to address the matter at all highlights why eligibility distinctions that turn on place of birth or status of parent ought to be abolished. That eligibility for our highest political office is conditioned by an invidious discrimination buried in the Constitution itself should be highly disturbing.

In 2016, the targets were Republican candidates Ted Cruz (born in Canada to U.S.-citizen parents who had immigrated from Cuba) and Marco Rubio (also the son of Cuban immigrants). In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama, was assailed by “birthers” who falsely claimed he was born outside the United States. Obama’s 2008 GOP opponent, John McCain, came under attack because he was born in what was then the Panama Canal Zone. Such episodes are all too likely to recur. In an increasingly diverse society, it will often be possible to claim tendentiously that some candidate or other is ineligible.

Continue reading at USA Today.