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March 1, 2005

Should Naturalized Citizens be President?


The Constitution says that only 'natural-born' citizens can be President. Should we change that?

America has always been open to foreign-born immigrants becoming full and equal citizens-with one exception: Only a "natural-born Citizen" can become President.

This requirement strikes a reasonable balance between our society's openness and the ongoing requirements of national security.

One of the legal conditions for becoming an American citizen is to be "attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States." New citizens also must take an oath to renounce "all allegiance and fidelity" to other nations and "bear true faith and allegiance" to the United States. But in the case of the presidency we need even more assurance of that allegiance than an oath.

The presidency is unique: One person makes crucial decisions, many having to do with foreign policy and national security. With a single executive, there are no checks to override the possibility of foreign intrigue or influence, or mitigate any lingering favoritism for one's native homeland.

Unlike any other position or office, the attachment of the President must be absolute. Attachment comes most often from being born in-and educated and formed by-this country, unalloyed by other allegiances.

In general, constitutional amendments should be pursued only after careful consideration, when it is necessary to address a great national issue and when there is broad-based support among the American people. That is not the case here.

Spalding is director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a public policy research organization in Washington, D.C.

First Appeared in <em>UpFront</em> Magazine

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