Why experts say Ted Cruz is eligible for the presidency

Story highlights

  • Cruz was born in Canada but is an American citizen thanks to his mother's nationality
  • Experts say that he is eligible to serve as president, but such a case has never been tested in court

Washington (CNN)In the eyes of constitutional scholars, Donald Trump is wrong: Yes, Ted Cruz can serve as president, and it isn't an open question.

But it hasn't been altogether shut, either, as no U.S. court has ever weighed in on the subject.
Experts largely agree that Cruz, who was born an American citizen thanks to his mother's nationality, is eligible to serve as president. The U.S. Constitution requires that presidents be "natural born citizens," which Cruz is alleged to not be, since he was born in Canada. Cruz has the backing of most legal experts and U.S. case law, according to a 2011 Congressional Research Service study.
    Since Cruz's mother was a U.S. citizen when she gave birth to her son, and even though the future senator from Texas experienced his first moments north of the U.S. border with Canada, until the age of 3, he didn't have to petition for citizenship. Cruz formally gave up his Canadian citizenship in 2014 -- prior to that he held dual citizenship status.
    Trump on Tuesday pondered aloud that maybe, just maybe, Cruz was wrong.
    "It'd be a very precarious one for Republicans because he'd be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision," he told The Washington Post in an interview published Tuesday. "You don't want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head."
    And on that count, Trump has a point -- since there has never been a president born outside the United States, so it is untested waters -- even if the academics agree. A Florida Democratic congressman, Alan Grayson, has pledged to file a "beautiful lawsuit" if Cruz is elected. Voters do ask Cruz sometimes on the trail -- generally with a pang of concern -- if Cruz is truly eligible.
    Other presidential contenders have been more magnanimous than Trump: When John McCain, who was born on U.S. military property, ran in 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sponsored a resolution that it shouldn't matter.