Ted Cruz's Ironic Birther Predicament
This article originally appeared on Salon.com on August 22, 2013.
By Steven Lubet
Connoisseurs of irony must be having a fine time watching Sen. Ted Cruz deal with inquiries about his U.S. citizenship. Barely eight weeks ago, Cruz loudly announced that he intended to introduce “a commonsense (sic) amendment to the immigration bill” that would allow states to require documentary proof of citizenship as a condition of voter registration — and now he has been forced to release his own birth certificate in order to answer questions arising from his Canadian birth.
To be clear, Cruz’s evidence is plenty good enough for me, but it cannot possibly be enough to satisfy consistent, die-hard birthers.
Cruz’s official Canadian birth certificate, as posted by the Dallas Morning News, shows that Rafael Edward Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, on December 22, 1970. Oddly, however, the birth was not registered until December 31, leaving an unexplained gap of nine days. But where was baby Ted over Christmas, an astute birther might ask. Donald Trump could build a casino in a hole that size.
Still, the birth certificate does state that Cruz’s mother, Eleanor Elizabeth Wilson, was born in Wilmington, Delaware. As Cruz has often said, that made him a U.S. citizen at birth, and therefore eligible to be president – but only if the birth certificate is accurate. The Canadian officials would have had no reason to question Cruz’s mother about her native country, nor would they have demanded any proof. Her word alone was good enough for Canadian purposes. Why would they care about the baby’s future qualification for the U.S. presidency?
Which brings us – or rather, which ought to bring the birthers – to the documents Cruz has not produced. Where, for example, is the Consular Report of Birth Abroad, which Cruz’s parents could have obtained at the U.S. consulate in Calgary? That would at least establish their intention to register him as an American citizen while they were living in Canada. For that matter, where is Eleanor Wilson’s own birth certificate? I mean, anyone can claim to have been born in Delaware, and everyone (including this dual citizen of the United States and Canada) knows that Canadians are too polite to ask tough questions. Birthers will have no such qualms. Will they require documentary proof?
Of course, even a sheaf of birth certificates would still leave Cruz’s citizenship technically open to question. Under the law in effect in 1970, Cruz would only have acquired U.S. citizenship if his mother had been “physically present” in the United States for ten years prior to his birth, including five years after she reached the age of fourteen. Neither Cruz’s birth certificate, nor his mother’s, nor the Consular Report could irrefutably establish Eleanor Wilson’s residence for the necessary length of time. For all birthers know, she might have been living in Kenya.
With so much grist for the birther mill, Cruz could face weeks, or months, of demands for his mother’s school registration, utility bills, leases, and property tax records – all of which would be subjected to intensive internet scrutiny. Maybe Donald Trump would send investigators to Delaware. After all, political observers have heard countless charges that documents can be faked.
Sure, the quest would be silly. Birtherism always is. But that didn’t prevent Cruz and his Tea Party confreres from keeping mum about the crazy rumors that have been spread for years about President Obama. Just this month, Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas promised to “take a look” at claims about “the fraudulent birth certificate of Barack Obama’s.” Another Texas Republican, Congressman Steve Stockman, also continues to question the president’s birth place. Sen. Cruz probably has enough star power within his party to squelch that sort of nonsense, if he would only speak out against it. But he has evidently been content to watch the conspiracy theories fulminate unchecked. As reported by National Review Online, he has even refused to rule out impeaching the president.
No responsible person actually doubts Cruz’s citizenship (although, as a Harvard trained lawyer he must surely know that his Canadian birth certificate is far from definitive proof). Connoisseurs of hypocrisy, on the other hand, are having a ball.
-Steven Lubet is a professor of law at Northwestern University.