Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
In a previous post, I set out the reasons why we should pass a constitutional amendment to remove the requirement that the president be a "naturally born" citizen of the United States. It is worth noting that I am far from the first person to propose such an idea. Perhaps the most prominent earlier proposal of this type was that of Conservative Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah), who proposed a change in equal opportunities for governance in 2003. He would have opened the presidency to anyone who had been a US citizen for at least 20 years.
Hatch retired in 2019 after serving in the Senate for over forty years. However, its October 2004 statement in favor of the change highlights points that are just as relevant to this day. Unfortunately, the GOP's descent into xenophobia against immigrants makes it much less likely that a prominent Conservative politician will now table a similar amendment:
There was little debate about this provision during the Constitutional Convention, but it is evident that the decision to include the born citizen requirement in our constitution was largely due to concerns over 200 years ago that a European monarch might be imported, to rule the United States states.
This limitation has become an anachronism that is decidedly un-American. Consistent with our democratic form of government, our citizens should have every opportunity to choose their leaders free from undue restrictions. In fact, no similar restriction prevents other critical government officials from taking office, including the Senate, House of Representatives, United States Supreme Court, or the President's most trusted cabinet officials.
The history of the United States is replete with dozens of great and patriotic Americans whose commitment to this country is indubitable, but who happened to be born outside of our borders. These include former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright, current Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, and former Minister of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez, who is now running for Senate seat in Florida. As our constitution reads today, none of those well-qualified, patriotic citizens of the United States could be a legitimate candidate for the presidency.
This also applies to the more than 700 immigrants who received the Congressional Medal of Honor – our nation's highest honor for valor – and risked their lives to defend the freedoms and freedoms of this great nation. But no matter how great their sacrifice, their leadership or their love for this country, they are not eligible to run for president. This amendment would remove this unfounded inequality.
Hatch's 20 year requirement seems far too long to me. A much shorter period – five or ten years for example – should be enough to take advantage of the potential benefits of waiting, e.g. B. to ensure that the potential candidate remains loyal to the US and is familiar with US politics. In practice, however, few, if any, serious potential candidates are likely to have been citizens for less than twenty years. Even if this were imperfect, Hatch's amendment would be a huge improvement on the status quo and would challenge almost any naturalized citizen who had a serious chance of winning a presidential election.
As mentioned in my last post on the subject, it is highly unlikely that such a change can be passed in the near future. For the reasons also explained there, however, it is very likely that this will change over time.