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In America we often boast of our nation’s immigrant history—and yet the Constitution requires that all of our presidents must be native-born citizens. It is time to end this archaic requirement.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, recently sponsored a constitutional amendment to open the presidency to those who have been U.S. citizens for at least 20 years and residents for at least 14 years. The House’s version of the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., calls for a candidate to have been a naturalized citizen for at least 35 years. Both proposals deserve praise for removing an antiquated and discriminatory requirement that was designed to protect a vulnerable new country—not the stable global power America is today.
It seems unreasonable for the United States, built by immigrants, to exclude foreign-born patriots from pursuing its highest office. These citizens should not be penalized for their country of origin, which lies beyond their control. By allowing only native-born citizens to hold the highest office in the land, the article bars many patriotic and talented candidates from seeking the White House. The list of high-profile public officials who are ineligible because of their place of birth includes Henry A. Kissinger ’50, Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez, and Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm.
Loyalty to country—not birthplace—should dictate eligibility for the presidency. With many immigrants having experienced unjustifiable violations of their civil rights after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, this amendment is timely and could prove highly symbolic. Removing the outdated provision would send a strong message that America unequivocally supports all of its patriotic citizens—regardless of their place of birth.
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