THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE SERVICE
THE NATURAL BORN CITIZEN QUALIFICATION FOR THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT: Is George W. Romney Eligible?
Vincent A. Doyle Legislative Attorney
American Law Division
February 27, 1968
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The Service makes such research available, without partisan bias, in many forms including studies, reports, compilations, digests, and background briefings. Upon request, the CRS assists Committees in analyzing legislative proposals and issues, and in assessing the possible effects of these proposals and their alternatives. The Service’s senior specialists and subject analysts are also available for personal consultations in their respective fields of expertise.
In 1939-1940, Congress undertook a major revision of our nationality and naturalization acts and a Committee on immigration and Naturalization held many hearings and provided a report to Congress. This document outlines hearings held in early 1940.
To revise and codify the nationality laws of the United States into a comprehensive nationality code. Hearings before the Committee on immigration and naturalization, House of representatives, Seventy-sixth Congress, first session, on H. R. 6127, superseded by H. R. 9980, a bill to revise and codify the nationality laws of the United States into a comprehensive nationality code. January 17, February 13, 20, 27, 28, March 5, April 11, 16, 23, May 2, 3, 7, 9, 13, 14, and June 5, 1940 …
1. In Re: Wong Kim Ark, 71 Fed1 382, US Dist Court, Northern Dist, California, No 11198 (3 Jan 1896)
Let’s start with the fundamental ruling on this: United States v Wong Kim Ark , 169 US 649 – Supreme Court 1898 for which we need to first look at the lower court’s findings, followed by the reply briefs filed with the Supreme Court.
The lower Court was faced with the claims that it was not Common Law but rather Natural/International Law which determines who is born a citizen. The differences is significant because, as the Court found, under Common Law practices the principle is jus soli, birth on soil, while under International Law, it was argued to be jus sanguinis, birth by blood. The former makes anyone born within the limits of a nation and subject to its jurisdiction, an automatic citizen of a nation, the latter reserves this for children born to US citizen parents, wherever born.
United States v. Wong Kim Ark – 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the Court observes how the statutes, declaring children born abroad to subject parents were not declarative of common law.
The earliest statute was passed in the reign of Edward III. In the Rolls of Parliament of 17 Edw. III (1343), it is stated that,
“before these times, there have been great doubt and difficulty among the Lords of this realm, and the Commons, as well men of the law as others, whether children who are born in parts beyond sea ought to bear inheritance after the death of their ancestors in England, because no certain law has been thereon ordained;”
Attorney General Bates explains his understanding of who are natural-born citizens, and explains why children born abroad to US citizen parents are under common law not citizens. The logical conclusion is that such children are neither born citizens and thus not natural-born. Bates was Attorney General under Lincoln from 1861 to 1864.