Comment: Eligibility for public office of dual nationals.

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SteveMT's picture

Eligibility for public office of dual nationals.

A person who becomes a U.S. citizen through naturalization is not considered a natural born citizen. Consequently, naturalized U.S. citizens are not eligible to become President of the United States or Vice President of the United States. For example, as of 2008, the U.S. Secretary of Labor (Elaine Chao) and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce (Carlos Gutierrez) cannot succeed to the presidency because they became U.S. citizens through naturalization. Ordinarily, the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Labor are tenth and eleventh in the presidential line of succession, as established by the Presidential Succession Act. The highest-ranking naturalized people to have been excluded from the Presidential Line of Succession were Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, each of whom would have been fourth (as Secretary of State) had they been natural born citizens.

In fact, the phrase "natural born citizen" is not defined anywhere in the Constitution itself and its interpretation has never been the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Thus, some argue that even those born abroad to U.S. citizens are not eligible to ascend to the Presidency, since an act of the United States Congress such as the Naturalization Act may not overrule the Constitution (see "Natural born citizen" as presidential qualification). Thus far, presidential candidates George W. Romney (born in Mexico), Barry Goldwater and John McCain (born in U.S. territories), were never seriously challenged on the basis of their "natural born" citizenship, but no candidate falling under this classification has ever actually become President, and therefore the question must be regarded as not having been finally decided.