It’s an issue that comes up time and time again with presidential candidates.
The U.S. Constitution states that only a natural-born citizen is eligible to become president. Because of this clause, it’s been contested whether or not Sen. Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada, is eligible to run in the current race. The same issue came up with Sen. John McCain, who was born in Panama, during his 2008 campaign.
The issue, as it pertains to Cruz and McCain, seems to be resolved by a 1790 congressional act that defined natural-born citizens to include children of U.S. citizens born abroad.
But what about adopted children?
As the law stands now, children adopted from abroad by Americans are automatically granted citizenship by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The act, however, does not grant them the status of natural-born citizens, making them ineligible to run for the Oval Office.
Alena Mulhern, a 10-year-old from Kingston, Mass., doesn’t think that’s fair.
Mulhern, who was adopted from China when she was ten months old, very much hopes to run for president in a few decades. To do so, she’s making a push for local lawmakers to pass a resolution calling for Congress to grant foreign-born adopted children “natural-born citizen” status, therefore making it possible for them to run for the country’s highest office.
And she’s making some headway: A petition addressing the issue was filed by her uncle, Rep. Josh Cutler from Duxbury, and a hearing took place before the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs at the State House on Wednesday.
“Just think of all the great candidates that would not be able to serve our country because of a law that came into existence over 200 years ago,” Mulhern testified, according to footage from WBZ-TV.
In a phone interview with Boston, Cutler described his niece as a “very poised” fifth grader who loves to discuss current events and public service.
“She was kind of heartbroken to learn she wasn’t eligible to run for office because of this technicality,” he said.
Speaking to WBZ-TV co-anchor Paula Ebben on Wednesday, Mulhern rattled off the qualities that would make her a great president.
“I would be a great leader and bring people together. I would guide our country so it would be an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family,” she said. “And most of all, I love my country. I want to serve my country, and this is my country.”
The Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs will now review the petition before making a recommendation to the legislature and opening it up to a vote. If Gov. Charlie Baker signs off on it, it would send a message to Congress, which would then have the option to act on the issue either by amending the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 or taking the much harder route of amending the Constitution.
Should Mulhern succeed on her quest, she’ll be eligible to run for president in 2040 at the earliest, abiding by another constitutional amendment that requires presidents to be at least 35 years old.
“The key thing is that we teach our kids that they can be anything they want to be. Some of them want to be firemen, some of them want to be pilots, some of them want to be the president of the United States,” said Cutler. “No one should have that dream taken away.”
Watch the full footage from WBZ-TV below.
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