It turns out that even a Harvard Law grad can be confused by his own citizenship status. In a teachable moment, Sen. Cruz tried to settle the debate over his eligibility to run for president by presenting a copy of his birth certificate to the press and discovered that he is a Canadian citizen.
Cruz isn’t the first person to be accused of being ineligible for the highest office in the land because he was born in a foreign country to a mother who is an American citizen. For years now, the “birther movement” has insisted that President Obama is ineligible for office because he was born in Kenya, but in a richly ironic turn of events, one of the most anti-immigrant politicians in the Senate has revealed himself to be as foreign-born as the birthers imagine the President to be.
Despite his assertion that he is an “American by birth,” the law says otherwise. Cruz is an American and a Canadian by birth, and if he were to win election, would be our first Canuck President since Chester Arthur’s rumored Canadian origins in 1881.
Cruz is no doubt struggling to prove his patriotism because of his foreignness, and in a reflexive move, immediately declared that he would renounce his Canadian citizenship. That would seem simple enough, but unfortunately, the law doesn’t work that way and he will have to apply to change his status. Like any other immigrant, his legal identity isn’t entirely up to him.
This is not unlike other immigrants in the United States who were brought to this country as children and were raised to love this country. These immigrants we now call “Dreamers” are often just as surprised to discover that the legal reality of their identity doesn’t match up with how they were raised.
Many Dreamers believe they are citizens, they act like citizens, and they expect to be treated as such by the government until some fateful day where they ask their parents for their birth certificate or social security card so that they can apply to college, or for a driver’s license.
Confusion and denial is the common human reaction to these discoveries. Embarrassment and the fear that your patriotism to the only country you know will now be called into question is a shock to the bedrock of one’s identity and sense of belonging.
Cruz should take in that feeling and absorb what it feels like to have your neighbors, your friends, and your government now take interest in where your loyalties lay because your parents didn’t fully explain how you got here.
At 42 years old and as a graduate of one of the most renowned legal institutions in the world, Senator Cruz has no excuse for being surprised by his legal status, but my guess is no Dreamer will fault him for not knowing, and each will hope that this episode will allow him the empathy needed to understand that being born in a foreign land and being a citizen of a foreign country is no reason one cannot also be an American patriot.