Opinion: Presidential hopes

Matt Yurkanin

Matt Yurkanin

If all U.S. citizens deserve equal rights and opportunities under the law, then why does Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution prevent foreign-born citizens from running for president?

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate held hearings regarding the article, which specifies that presidents must be natural-born citizens, hold continuous residency for a minimum of 14 years and be at least 35 years old. The hearings have called into question the reasons for preventing foreign-born citizens from attaining the executive office.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is proposing an amendment that would make anyone who has been a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years eligible to run for president. That would make California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately eligible to run for president (Schwarzenegger obtained citizenship in 1983).

It’s no secret that Hatch and Schwarzenegger are good friends. In fact, although Hatch introduced the amendment before the 2003 California recall election, we’d be surprised if Hatch’s persistence isn’t somewhat inspired by the possibility of a Schwarzenegger candidacy in 2008.

However, the argument against foreign-born presidents shouldn’t be over the possibility of a President Schwarzenegger. It should be about whether immigrants who have come to this country have the right to eventually lead it.

When Article 2 was written at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, there were reports that foreign nationals were attempting to maneuver members of European royal families into power. Obviously, the possibility of this happening today is absurd, and the law is now embarrassingly archaic.

If U.S. parents adopt a child from overseas, should that child be prevented from running for president one day? What about a foreign-born child who comes to the United States at an early age under other circumstances?

The argument that a natural-born citizen is more of a patriot than a foreign-born citizen is ridiculous. What prevents a natural-born citizen from living most of his or her life in another country before returning home for 14 years and running for office? Are natural-born citizens any less susceptible to becoming a traitor or the puppet of a foreign power?

If anything, immigrants who come here looking for opportunities and freedoms may appreciate and respect our country more than those who were born here and have never known foreign rule.

Furthermore, we doubt a sudden rash of dubious candidates will emerge. Running for president isn’t an easy task. Traditionally, it has taken years of public service, and candidates have always been carefully scrutinized by the media, the public and government agencies.

In reality, although Schwarzenegger might not be the best example of a foreign national who could run for president. Public servants, such as former Secretary of State Madeline Albright or Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.), are examples of individuals that could benefit from such an amendment.

The possibility of a foreign-born president might make some U.S. citizens uncomfortable. But to be a nation that values tolerance, opportunity and freedom, we must stamp out xenophobia – especially vestiges of it unintentionally written into our Constitution.If all U.S. citizens deserve equal rights and opportunities under the law, then why does Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution prevent foreign-born citizens from running for president?

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate held hearings regarding the article, which specifies that presidents must be natural-born citizens, hold continuous residency for a minimum of 14 years and be at least 35 years old. The hearings have called into question the reasons for preventing foreign-born citizens from attaining the executive office.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is proposing an amendment that would make anyone who has been a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years eligible to run for president. That would make California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately eligible to run for president (Schwarzenegger obtained citizenship in 1983).

It’s no secret that Hatch and Schwarzenegger are good friends. In fact, although Hatch introduced the amendment before the 2003 California recall election, we’d be surprised if Hatch’s persistence isn’t somewhat inspired by the possibility of a Schwarzenegger candidacy in 2008.

However, the argument against foreign-born presidents shouldn’t be over the possibility of a President Schwarzenegger. It should be about whether immigrants who have come to this country have the right to eventually lead it.

When Article 2 was written at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, there were reports that foreign nationals were attempting to maneuver members of European royal families into power. Obviously, the possibility of this happening today is absurd, and the law is now embarrassingly archaic.

If U.S. parents adopt a child from overseas, should that child be prevented from running for president one day? What about a foreign-born child who comes to the United States at an early age under other circumstances?

The argument that a natural-born citizen is more of a patriot than a foreign-born citizen is ridiculous. What prevents a natural-born citizen from living most of his or her life in another country before returning home for 14 years and running for office? Are natural-born citizens any less susceptible to becoming a traitor or the puppet of a foreign power?

If anything, immigrants who come here looking for opportunities and freedoms may appreciate and respect our country more than those who were born here and have never known foreign rule.

Furthermore, we doubt a sudden rash of dubious candidates will emerge. Running for president isn’t an easy task. Traditionally, it has taken years of public service, and candidates have always been carefully scrutinized by the media, the public and government agencies.

In reality, although Schwarzenegger might not be the best example of a foreign national who could run for president. Public servants, such as former Secretary of State Madeline Albright or Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.), are examples of individuals that could benefit from such an amendment.

The possibility of a foreign-born president might make some U.S. citizens uncomfortable. But to be a nation that values tolerance, opportunity and freedom, we must stamp out xenophobia – especially vestiges of it unintentionally written into our Constitution.