The circumstances that make a person a U.S. citizen again are being questioned.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is questioning if his opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, is a natural born citizen as the U.S. Constitution requires.
Most legal authorities say that Cruz is even though he was born in Calgary, Canada, to a U.S. mother and a Cuban father.
For U.S. citizens in Costa Rica, the question is not if their child born here can be president. They wonder if the child is a U.S. citizen and if he or she can pass along citizenship to the grandkids.
The situation can be far more complex than when framers wrote the U.S. Constitution. For example, today there is assisted reproduction, unwed motherhood and adoption of foreign children by U.S. couples. There also are many more U.S. citizens in the military or working overseas.
And how about all those unaccompanied minors from Central America?
Most expats know that a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen and a non-U.S. citizen spouse may not be a U.S. citizen. That is true if the U.S. citizen parent has not lived five years in the U.S. with two of them being after the age of 14.
Frequently, a U.S. citizen married to a Costa Rican urges a child from the marriage to deliver her own children in the United States. That way the grandchild is unquestionably a U.S. citizen.
The only children born in the U.S. who are not citizens by birth are those from diplomatic families.
Of course, a child born here to one U.S. parent frequently attends school in the United States and completes the time requirement to pass on citizenship. The child also is a dual citizen, which is not a problem in Costa Rica.
But in other countries, where the military draft still is in effect, a dual citizen might end up as a recruit. A typical example is a dual U.S.-Swiss citizen. Such a man might be surprised to receive a Swiss draft notice when he turns 20.
And some officials are insistent that a
person born in their country enter and exit on that country’s passport. Traveling businessmen have been delayed in some Latin countries because they had been born there many years earlier.
The U.S. Supreme Court never has decided what the Constitution means by natural born citizen. The rules have been adjusted considerably by laws. The last change that favored children adopted overseas was signed by Bill Clinton in 2000.
Despite what Trump says, a presidential candidate born overseas to U.S. parents has been considered a natural born citizen.
George Romney, who ran for president in 1968, was born in México to U.S. parents. So was Sen. John McCain, who was born in the Canal Zone to U.S. parents.
Americans Abroad, Inc., has published a lot of information regarding citizenship, and the advocacy organization lobbies for an expanded definition of the term.
Americans Abroad also is a leader in seeking geographically based taxation for Americans instead of the current citizenship-based. Ironically while many in the world fight to gain U.S. citizenship, some of the wealthy are renouncing it to move into a more tax-friendly country.