March 1, 2005
By Matthew Spalding, Ph.D.
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
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 UpFront Magazine
No. 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.
Matthew Spalding, Ph.D.
Vice President, American Studies and Director, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics
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