It's a simple question, but the answer may not be so easy.
While the Constitution does not define "natural-born citizen," there is strong evidence that the Founding Fathers understood it to mean someone born of two American citizens.
The next national election is less than 18 months away, and both rising Republican stars have been touted as potential contenders for either the No. 1 or No. 2 spot on a presidential ticket.
But their eligibility is in doubt since both men's parents were not U.S. citizens at the time their future political children were born, WND can reveal. That factor is important because the Constitution mandates a presidential candidate to be a "natural-born citizen," a requirement that has dogged President Barack Obama since the 2008 campaign.
With 2011 being the apparent year of the birth certificate, Jindal this month released a copy of his own birth record, indicating he was born on American soil – specifically, Baton Rouge, La. – to parents who were born in India.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's birth certificate indicates he was born on June 10, 1971, in Baton Rouge, La.
Based on that disclosure, the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper declared him to be qualified for the White House, stating, "Piyush Jindal was born at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, a natural-born U.S. citizen, who like every other child born in America, could, constitutionally, grow up to be president."
Kyle Plotkin, Jindal's press secretary, echoed that proclamation, telling WND, "The governor is obviously a natural-born citizen."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Meanwhile, Marco Rubio was born in Miami, Fla., on May 28, 1971, to Mario and Oriales Rubio who were born in Cuba, though the senator has not released his birth certificate for the world to scrutinize.
Last November, radio giant Rush Limbaugh commented about Rubio's eligibility while making a point about general media non-interest in Obama's eligibility.
"Liberal birthers may demand Marco Rubio's birth certificate," said Limbaugh. "If he did [run on a presidential ticket], he'll produce it, I'm sure, but I'm not worried about it. If Obama's taught us anything, it's that the news media doesn't care where our presidents are born. They don't. Well, let's see if it does. Let's see if all of a sudden the media starts caring where Republicans are born. Up to now they haven't cared where presidents are born. Let's see if they now start caring."
Regarding Bobby Jindal's parents, they were not U.S. citizens when their son was born.
"They were both permanent legal residents at the time of his birth," Plotkin told WND. "They became citizens after his birth."
Plotkin says Jindal's mother became a U.S. citizen Sept. 21, 1976, and his father was naturalized 10 years later on Dec. 4, 1986.
It's a similar situation for Rubio, as his press secretary Alex Burgos said the senator's parents "were permanent legal residents of the U.S." at the time Marco was born in 1971.
Then four years after Marco was born, "Mario and
Oriales Rubio became naturalized U.S. citizens on Nov. 5, 1975," Burgos told WND.
When asked specifically if Sen. Rubio considered himself to be a natural-born citizen, Burgos responded, "Yes."
The fact that Rubio and Jindal were both born in America undoubtedly makes them "native-born" citizens, but does it mean they're "natural-born" citizens?
Some would say no – including legal sources relied upon by America's Founders – based on the foreign births of their parents, an issue many claim disqualifies Obama from holding the presidency, since Obama's father held British citizenship due to his birth in Kenya, which was under British rule at the time.
The Founders' chief concern, as demonstrated in a 1787 letter from John Jay to George Washington, was that the commander-in-chief not have dual loyalties.
Jay, who later became president of the Continental Congress and the first Supreme Court chief justice, wrote: "Permit me to hint, whether it would be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Commander in Chief of the American army shall not be given to nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen."
The definition of natural-born citizen approved by the first U.S. Congress can be seen in the Naturalization Act of 1790, which regarded it as a child born of two American parents. The law, specifying that a natural-born citizen need not be born on U.S. soil, stated: "The children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States."
The first U.S. Congress included 20 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Among the 20 were eight members of the Committee of Eleven that drafted the Constitution's natural-born citizen clause.
While the act was repealed five years later, it, nevertheless, represented the will of the Congress that the U.S. not be led by someone with dual loyalties.
Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, a principal framer of the Fourteenth Amendment, affirmed in a discussion in the House on March 9, 1866, that a natural-born citizen is "born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty."
"The Law of Nations," a 1758 work by Swiss legal philosopher Emmerich de Vattel, was read by many of the American Founders and informed their understanding of law later established in the Constitution.
Vattel specified that a natural-born citizen is born of two citizens and made it clear that the father's citizenship was a loyalty issue.
Vattel writes: "The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. … In order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country."
Significantly, when the U.S. Senate resolved in 2008 that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican presidential nominee, was a natural born citizen, it specified that his parents were American citizens.
The non-binding resolution, co-sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama, stated that McCain – born to two American citizens on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, "is a 'natural born citizen' under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States."
"'Natural-born citizen' status requires not only birth on U.S.
soil but also birth to parents who are both U.S. citizens," said New Jersey-based attorney Mario Apuzzo, one of several lawyers filing lawsuits over
Obama's eligibility and who also says Rubio and Jindal are definitely not natural-born citizens. "The reason they use that is because of allegiance. The founding fathers wanted undivided allegiance."
Herb Titus, an attorney who has taught constitutional law for nearly 30 years and was the founding dean of the College of Law and Government at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., agrees with that definition completely.
"That's precisely what a natural-born citizen is," Titus said in a YouTube video, "one who is born to a father and a mother, each of whom is a citizen of the United States or whatever other country they're claiming natural-born citizenship in."
But that definition has its critics.
"There's nothing that I'm aware of that says you have to have two American parents," said Gary Kreep, executive director of the United States Justice Foundation. "My understanding of it is if you're born
in the United States, you're a natural-born citizen, period."
Floyd Brown, head of the Western Center for Journalism who has actively sought the impeachment of Obama, told WND that he, too, considers someone born "on the soil" a natural-born citizen.
A consensus on the correct definition of "natural-born
citizen" has eluded lawyers and scholars for more than 200 years. The
Constitution's silence, the absence of definitive Supreme Court rulings and a wide
array of opinions through the centuries have only further confused the
question of what "natural born" actually means.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Charles Kerchner who has filed a legal challenge
against Obama's eligibility, is among those critical of
Jindal's legal qualification.
"Governor Jindal is a 'citizen of the United States' since he
was born in the USA, but he is not a 'natural-born citizen of the
United States' since his parents were not citizens of the United States
when Governor Jindal was born," said Kerchner, who runs the
"As a citizen of the United States, he is, of course, eligible
to a governor, senator, or U.S. representative, but he is not
constitutionally eligible to be the president and commander in chief of
our military (per Article II, Section 1) nor is he eligible to be the
vice president (per the 12th Amendment) since he is not a "natural-born citizen of the United States."
Jindal's parents arrived in America from India six months before their son was born on June 10, 1971, ironically just 13 days after Rubio's birth. Bobby was actually in the womb of his mother, Raj Jindal, when she made the move from overseas.
Though born with the first name of Piyush, the future governor asked as a child to be called Bobby because he likened himself to a boy with the same name on "The Brady Bunch" TV show.
"Every day after school, I'd come home and I'd watch 'The Brady Bunch,' he told CBS. "And I identified with Bobby, you know? He was about my age, and Bobby stuck."
According to Jindal's book, "Leadership and Crisis," his mother was thrilled to have been offered a scholarship in 1970 to finish a graduate degree in nuclear physics at Louisiana State University.
She originally told the college she couldn't accept the scholarship because she was pregnant, but her son stated, "LSU wrote back and promised her a month off for childbirth if she changed her mind. LSU was so accommodating, and the opportunity to come to America so thrilling, that my parents accepted. So, my parents stepped out on faith, secured green cards, packed up a few suitcases, said their goodbyes, and took off for this exotic new place called Baton Rouge, Louisiana."
Having a green card does not mean a person is a U.S. citizen. It merely grants foreigners legal status for residence and employment in the country.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notes on its website:
"A permanent resident is someone who has been granted authorization to
live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of
that status, a person is granted a permanent resident card, commonly
called a 'green card.'"
Plotkin told the Times-Picayune that Jindal's parents' green cards were secured by his father, Amar Jindal, based on his training as an engineer.
The paper says Amar's passport is notated with the code P3-1, the visa code in 1971 for "professional or highly skilled," and that Raj received her green card as his spouse.
"Raj got her green card through her husband, Amar," Plotkin said. "Amar received his green card though a program by the federal government to increase the number of engineers. It was not through an employer."
Bobby Jindal says in his book that his father, once he was living in America, let his fingers do the walking through a phone book to try to find a job: "So he sat down at the kitchen table in early 1971 and opened up the yellow pages. Starting with the A's, he made cold calls to local business in his heavily accented English, eventually landing a job offer at a railroad."
There is currently an eligibility bill in the works in Louisiana, House Bill 561, to have candidates prove their presidential eligibility to be on the ballot, and Jindal has indicated he'd sign it if it passes.
Though Rubio was born in Florida 40 years ago, his parents are natives of Havana who came to the U.S. in 1959 following Fidel Castro's communist takeover of the island nation. After a brief stay in New York, the family settled in Miami. According to Rubio's official online biography, at the age of 8, the entire family moved to Las Vegas, where Marco's father worked as a bartender and his mother as a hotel housekeeper.
The family returned to Miami in 1985, and Marco became a football player at South Miami High School. Marco's father passed away Sept. 4 after a long battle with emphysema and lung cancer.
Marco Rubio, bottom left, shown as a teenager wearing No. 46 for the South Miami High Cobras
Since Rubio's parents were not U.S. citizens before Marco was born, it could add fuel to the fire of critics who allege Marco is not natural born, and therefore not qualified to serve as commander in chief.
"If he's not a natural-born citizen, it's his destiny not to be eligible to be president," Apuzzo said. "He just has to accept it unless he wants to challenge it in court or there's a constitutional amendment."
Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives who was elected to the U.S. Senate last November, has been a darling of tea partiers for his
promotion of lower taxes, better schools, free-market empowerment, and
a leaner, more efficient government. Political observers of all stripes
see him as an impressive candidate should he decide to seek the
"It's no secret that Marco wants to be the first Cuban-American president," said Sen. Steve Geller,
the top Democrat in the Florida Senate when Rubio was House speaker.
"He's smart, he's ambitious, and, candidly, I wouldn't want to be the
guy that gets in his way. Because you'll regret it."
There have been at least two U.S. presidents who served in office
despite not having both of their parents being U.S. citizens when their
future political children were born.
In addition to Obama, whose father was born in Kenya and never attained U.S. citizenship, there is also Chester Arthur, the 21st president who served from 1881-1885.
Arthur was born in Vermont in 1829; but his father, Irish-born preacher
William Arthur, was a subject of the United Kingdom at the time
of Chester's birth and didn't become a naturalized U.S. citizen until
1843, when Chester was a teenager.
"Obama supporters have sought to use Chester Arthur as precedent for justifying Obama's eligibility," said attorney Leo Donofrio, author of the Natural Born Citizen blog.
"Such reliance is unfounded because it wasn't known at the time Chester
Arthur held office that he was born with dual nationality."
In a column examining the issue,
Donofrio writes: "Chester Arthur's true eligibility defect doesn't
appear to have been mentioned in any historical record until December
2008 when it was exposed at my blog. Clearly, Chester Arthur's
deception cannot serve to validate anyone's presidential eligibility.
He got away with it, but that doesn't make it right."
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