The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 11, 2013

Texas senator's prospects re-open 'birther' debate

The Back Porch

By Nerissa Young
The Register-Herald

— Maybe it’s time to let a nation of immigrants elect an immigrant as president.

The growing political clout of America’s Hispanic and Latino voting blocs are encouraging members of those communities to run for elected office.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s star is on the rise in the Republican Party as is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s.

Cruz, in office since January, recently visited South Carolina, fueling speculation that he may be considering the nation’s top office, The Washington Post reported this week.

Several cosmic forces are colliding: Republicans need to rebuild their constituency among people from Spanish-speaking countries after losing them to the Democrats last year over the immigration debate. In previous elections, Republicans could count on that bloc because of the party’s social conservative appeal to that Catholic community. Texas is a populous state critical to both parties’ success, and it has a large number of immigrants.

Cruz’s appeal is undeniable. That’s why he got prime time face time during last year’s Republican National Convention.

But The Post reported that amid speculation over whether Cruz will run for president is speculation over whether he is eligible. He was born in Canada; his mother is a U.S. citizen, and his father emigrated from Cuba.

Article II of the Constitution provides that “no person except a natural born citizen” shall be eligible to be president. The person must be at least 35 years old and a resident for 14 years.

The question is whether Cruz can be considered a natural born citizen because he was born to a U.S. citizen outside the U.S.

Maybe this whole discussion is straining at a gnat.

Two recent presidencies regarded as massive failures came from families about as American and homegrown as one could imagine.

Jimmy Carter came from meager blue-collar circumstances that are about as American as Miss Lillian, his mother. He saw the economy tank, a fuel crisis, the seizure of hostages in Iran and just one term in the Oval Office.

George W. Bush descended from affluent blue-blood New England stock, the cradle of the nation’s founding. He saw the economy tank, protracted wars of questionable validity and America’s descent on the world stage.

All Americans came from somewhere else, except the Natives who were here first. Under the strictest scrutiny of the Constitution, the nation has been quite derelict in not electing an American Indian to the presidency.

Europeans consider Americans quite provincial, and they are right. America has created this little club for itself that no one else can belong to and that increasingly fewer want to belong to. For all its open borders, a lot of closed minds prevail.

By allowing only one group to run for president, the nation finds itself locked in a form of intellectual incest. Seven presidents graduated from Harvard, which leads in producing presidents. Five have graduated from Yale. Both count George W. Bush as he has a bachelor’s from Harvard and a master’s from Yale. What does THAT say about relying too heavily on those most American of universities?

Cruz, by the way, got his bachelor’s degree from Princeton and his law degree from Harvard.

So perhaps it’s time to amend the Constitution to allow anyone who is 35 and has been a resident for 14 years to seek the highest office. Maybe some literal new blood can bring some new ideas for dramatic progress.

Who better to lead the discussion on immigration than someone who grew up in an immigrant family?

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist.

E-mail: ynerissa@frontier.com.

© 2013 by Nerissa Young