The 28th Amendment

William Safire [RSS] becomes the latest pundit to endorse the idea that naturalized citizens should be eligible for the presidency. Of course, besides believing that “nativist bias” has no place in America, he has a political motivation: he wants to see me Arnold Schwarzenegger pursue the nation’s highest office.

The argument is generally solid, but Safire could have done a better job of teasing out the Democratic stake on this issue. He notes that

After ratification of the 28th Amendment in 2007, I envision a G.O.P. ticket the next year with Rudy Giuliani or John McCain on top and Schwarzenegger as running-mate. For Democrats, Evan Bayh or Hillary Clinton for president, Peter Jennings (Canadian-born) for v.p.

Though I appreciate the nice little jab at the anchor’s impartiality, it nonetheless ignores some rising Democratic stars with immigrant backgrounds. As George Will wrote two years ago, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm could be a serious contender were it not for her own Canadian heritage. That’s why, contrary to Safire’s description, the movement is now called “Amend for Arnold and Jen,” not just “Amend for Arnold.” It may be a simple cover to avoid the appearance of partisanship, but I think it’s safe to say that Democrats have as much interest in expanding eligibility and appealing to immigrants as Republicans do.

On another note, wouldn’t it be interesting to see George W. Bush take up this cause? John Kerry slammed him for supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment and using the constitution to divide the country. A pro-naturalization amendment would allow the president to cast himself as a uniter. It would also narrow the gap between his team and Arnold’s team — a relationship that hasn’t always been warm.

Lastly, Safire writes:

Even children born abroad of U.S. citizens have fallen under the shadow of Article II; this has caused pregnant women to race back to our shores to make certain their children’s political potential is not somehow beclouded. [Emphasis added.]

I’m sure that expecting mothers have a whole host of reasons for wanting their children to be born stateside. But this statement just strikes me as a bit over the top; one would have to be pretty consumed with politics to be “caused” to “race back,” all the while fretting about a kid’s rise to power.

We’ll notch that line to artistic license.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. Boyd says:

    In my completely uninformed and uneducated interpretation of the Constitution, it seems to me that children born abroad with American parents qualify as “a natural born Citizen.” It also seems reasonable to interpret that phrase as not allowing children born on American soil with foreign parents.

    That could take several forms: disallowing any children of two foreign citizens, allowing children of resident aliens, or allowing all children except those whose parents are in the country illegally (to me, this is the minimum restriction that should be imposed).

    In other words, the citizenship or immigration status of the parents seems much more important than the physical location of the birth.

  2. Mark says:

    If it’s McCain and Arnold in 2008 for the Republicans then neither Republican candidate will have been born in the United States – John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. But Republican presidential candidates who weren’t born stateside are not too uncommon – George Romney (Father of Mitt and a one-time contender) was born in Mexico of American parents and 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater was born in the Arizona Territory in 1909, 3 years before Arizona became the 48th state.

  3. Safire is wrong about the law. Read 8 USC 1401.

    If you are born overseas to American citizens, its all good. This was made law in part because of the large number of overseas births among military folks.

    Also, see here

  4. James Joyner says:

    Anyone born in the U.S., including children of illegal immigrants, is automatically granted native born American citizen status.

  5. Attila Girl says:

    Now *that* has always struck me as an invitation to abuse. In general I do tend to lean toward some form of amnesty for people who come here in order to work very very hard and help their families to eke out a living in the “third world” parts of Latin America. But the laws as now written do encourage women to sneak across the border to give birth, and that is unfair.

  6. Anjin-San says:

    If Arnold can straighten out the horrible mess California has become, I will drive him to the White House myself.

    He has done some things well so far, but his thirst for special interest money (which he specifically campaigned against) and habit of working behind closed doors are concerns.

  7. ken says:

    280 million natural born American and the republican party cannot find a single qualified candidate among them to be president. Pathetic.

  8. Anjin-San says:


    Keep in mind that we Democrats did not do a hell of a lot better this time around.

  9. Attilla Girl: “the laws as now written do encourage women to sneak across the border to give birth, and that is unfair.”

    It’s not just the law; it’s the Constitution, in the 14th Amendment. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”