The Romney Eligibility Question

WILL HE HAVE TO PROVE IT?

by Paul R. Hollrah, ©2012

According to Wikipedia, "Americans who have dual citizenship do not lose their United States citizenship unless they renounce it officially.["

(Feb. 1, 2012) —  A December 18, 2011 article in the Free Republic, by Larry Walker, Jr., raises many interesting questions about Mitt Romney’s status as a “natural born” citizen, as required under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

The principal questions raised by Walker are these:  First, at the time of Mitt Romney’s birth, was his father a United States Citizen?  Secondly, inasmuch as Romney’s father, George W. Romney, was born in Mexico, did his father become a naturalized citizen prior to Mitt’s birth?  And finally, as the son of a Mexican-born father, was Mitt Romney born with dual US-Mexican citizenship?

These are all interesting questions.  However, in order to address them with some degree of logic it might be useful to first establish a few facts of the Romney family history, working backwards from the present.

Mitt Romney was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 12, 1947.  His parents were George W. and Lenore LaFount Romney, who married in Salt Lake City on July 2, 1931.  At the time of his birth, Mitt’s father served as general manager of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, in Detroit.

Mitt’s mother, Lenore Romney, was born in Logan, Utah on November 9, 1908.  She was an American citizen at birth.  His father, George W. Romney, was born in a Mormon Colony, Colonia Dublán, in Galeana, State of Chihuahua, Mexico, on July 8, 1907.  His parents were Gaskell and Anna Amelia Pratt Romney, both ex-patriot American citizens who were born in Utah and who met and married in Mexico.  Family histories indicate that they did not renounce their U.S. citizenship upon arriving in Mexico.

What calls into question Mitt Romney’s status as a “natural born” citizen is his father’s Mexican birth.  After being born in Mexico to American parents in July 1907, George W. emigrated to the United States with his parents and siblings in 1912, at age 5.  Many who question Mitt Romney’s status as a “natural born” citizen assume that his father, George W. Romney, was a Mexican citizen when he arrived in the United States in July 1912.

If that were the case, all that would be necessary for Mitt Romney to be a “natural born” citizen would be for his father to have acquired U.S. citizenship at some point between July 1912, when he came to the United States, and March 12, 1947, when Mitt was born.  However, according to an October 15, 1967 New York Times interview with Romney, who was then seeking the 1968 Republican nomination for President of the United States, it appears that he did not at any time apply for naturalization.

According to the Times report, “Governor Romney said today that the question of his constitutional eligibility for office had been studied by lawyers and that he believed it posed no problem…  Governor Romney said that he did not have to file any papers to become an American citizen since both his parents had been born in the United States…”

In a follow-up story on November 5, 1967, the Times reported that, “He was born July 8, 1907, in Chihuahua, Mexico, where his American parents were living in an exile Mormon community.  As the son of an American father, he was entitled by statute to American citizenship at birth.  So there was no need for him to be naturalized when his parents brought him, as a small boy, to the United States.”

Since George W. Romney was born on foreign soil, this raises the question of citizenship “by descent” of children born to American citizens on foreign soil.  Legal scholars insist that the question of citizenship lies in two concepts of international law: a) birth in-country, or jure soli (by right of the soil), or b) from birth outside the country to parents who are citizens, jure sanguinis (by right of blood).  The latter would apply to George W. Romney.   

One recent news story (source unknown) summed up the issue of Mitt Romney’s eligibility: “When Mitt Romney was born in the USA in Detroit, Michigan in 1947, his parents were both clearly recognized as being Citizens of the United States per the U. S. Nationality Act of 1940. Thus, Mitt was born in the USA to parents (plural) who were both citizens of the country and Mitt is a ‘natural born Citizen’ of the United States… George Romney was a citizen of the United States per U.S. “jus sanguinis” laws going back to the founding of our nation and also per the U.S. Nationality Act of 1940.  He was born in Mexico of U.S. citizen parents (plural) and thus George Romney is a ‘citizen’ at birth under U.S. laws, including the U.S. Nationality Act of 1940.

“Detractors claim that George Romney’s parents legally renounced their U.S. citizenship while in Mexico and thus could not pass along their U.S. Citizenship by jus sanguinis to their son George Romney.  There is absolutely no evidence of that…  He was recognized by all U.S. laws as a U.S. citizen long before 1940, but the Nationality Act of 1940… clearly stated that people in George Romney’s status were citizens of the United States at birth.  That act was adopted 7 years prior to Mitt Romney being born in Detroit, Michigan…”

Regarding Mitt Romney’s status as a dual US-Mexican citizen, that question is of little or no importance.  If Mexican law in the early years of the 20th century conferred automatic Mexican citizenship on all those born on Mexican soil it is possible, even likely, that George W. Romney would have held dual US-Mexican citizenship throughout his life, making him ineligible to serve as President of the United States.  However, it is inconceivable that Mexican law could impose dual US-Mexican citizenship, by descent, on the American-born children of those who held dual US-Mexican citizenship by automatic operation of Mexican law.

Those who support the presidential aspirations of Mitt Romney should rest easy.  It appears that all doubts relating to his status as a “natural born” U.S. citizen are without foundation.  In his father’s case, it appears that he may have qualified as a “natural born” citizen only so long as he did not receive automatic Mexican citizenship by virtue of his being born to American parents on Mexican soil.

If he did receive automatic Mexican citizenship, jure soli, because of his birth on Mexican soil, he would then have held dual US-Mexican citizenship and would have been ineligible to serve as President of the United States.  Conversely, if he received only American citizenship, jure sanguimis, because he was born to American parents on foreign soil, he would then have been eligible to serve as a “natural born” U.S. citizen.

These are the findings and conclusions of one not trained in the law.  As such, their value should be judged only according to the reader’s level of confidence in the source.  I am only trying to shed a bit of light on a sticky question that may be of critical importance to us all.

If one trained in the law wishes to differ with my conclusions I will be happy to amend accordingly.  In the meantime, caveat emptor!

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7 Responses to The Romney Eligibility Question

  1. SteveT

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    JustThinking — Regarding Utah territory, here is a citation from Wikipedia:

    Quote: The Territory of Utah was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 4, 1896, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Utah.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Territory

    In FAM 1120, there is a separate section dealing specifically with “incorporated territories” (as opposed to “territories” in general). Anyone born in an incorporated territory is born “in” the United States as far as the 14th Amendment is concerned. So, if Gaskell was born in Utah, of parents not owing any allegiance to any foreign power, there is no question that he was a US citizen, by birth, as per the 14th Amendment.

    Whether he was a natural born citizen is a separate issue, but it doesn’t matter in this case.

    A foreign-born child (George) receives US citizenship from a US-citizen father (Gaskell). The mother’s (Anna’s) citizenship is irrelevant.

    Gaskell was born in 1871 in Utah, well after the 14th Amendment became part of the US Constitution, and well before the Supreme Court ruling regarding Wong Kim Ark.

    If you can show that, when Gaskell was born in Utah, he and/or his parents were subject to ANY sort of foreign jurisdiction, then I suppose you could argue that Gaskell was not really a US citizen at birth, according to the meaning of “jurisdiction” as originally intended by the framers of the 14th Amendment.

    I agree THAT would be a most interesting can of worms.

  2. JustThinking

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    Steve T said: “Gaskell and Anna were US citizens by birth, because they were born in Utah when it was an organized incorporated territory. See page 2 of State Department document: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86756.pdf

    Where is the proof that Gaskell and Anna were US citizens? They were not born in the state of Utah. Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt Romney were both born in the Territory of Utah in 1871 and 1876 respectively. In 1884 they moved to Mexico. In 1896 the Territory of Utah became a state.

    The State Department document that you referenced did not mention Utah by name. It also states the following about US territories:

    7 FAM 1121.2-2 Court Decisions: (TL:CON-66; 10-10-96) a. In the first decade of the 20th century, in a series of court cases often called the “Insular Cases”, the Supreme Court developed the rationale that, absent specific Congressional legislation or treaty provisions—
    (1) The Constitution has only limited applicability to U.S. territories; and
    (2) Inhabitants of territories acquired by the United States acquire U.S.
    nationality-but not U.S. citizenship.

    So did Gaskell and Anna Romney acquire US nationality but not US citizenship under the Insular Cases?

    And 7 FAM 1121.3 Status of Inhabitants of Territories, Absent Laws Defining Status
    (TL:CON-66; 10-10-96) c. A child born in an outlying possession before January 13, 1941, whose father (or mother if the child was born out of wedlock) was a non-citizen U.S. national, was held to have acquired the parent’s status, and a child born there to alien parents was held not to have acquired U.S. nationality.

    So when George W. Romney (Mitt’s father) was born in Mexico in 1907, what citizenship did he acquire from his parents?

  3. SteveT

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Mormon immigrants would have had difficulty becoming naturalized US citizens. But Gaskell and Anna were US citizens by birth, because they were born in Utah when it was an organized incorporated territory. See page 2 of State Department document:

    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86756.pdf

    Here is the Congressional Record concerning George Romney’s citizenship.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/20829167/Natural-Born-Citizen-Congressional-Record-6-14-1967-p-15875-80#fullscreen:on

    George acquired Mexican citizenship because he was born in Mexico. He also acquired US citizenship from his parents. True, there was a residency requirement for Mexican citizens, but that requirement went away when Mexico adopted its new constitution in 1917.

    Both countries required that, when George reached adulthood, he choose (“elect”) the citizenship he wished to keep. It appears George never bothered to fulfill this “election” requirement, at least not explicitly.

    George served as a Mormon missionary in England and Scotland. I assume he traveled to those countries on a US passport. Possibly, both countries regarded George’s US passport application as implicit election of US citizenship and renunciation of Mexican citizenship. But it wouldn’t hurt to check, just to make sure.

    If George was not a US citizen when Mitt was born, Mitt would not be a natural born citizen. The last thing we need is yet another usurper in the Oval Office.

  4. JustThinking

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    I’m not sure that the author’s assumptions are correct. The author states that Mitt’s father, George W. Romney, was born in Mexico in 1907, and George W’s parents were Gaskell and Anna Amelia Pratt Romney, both ex-patriot American citizens who were born in Utah and who met and married in Mexico….” Then the author states that “After being born in Mexico to American parents in July 1907, George W. emigrated to the United States with his parents and siblings in 1912, at age 5.”

    But where is the proof that Mitt’s grandparents Gaskell and Anna had US citizenship that they could pass on to George W. (Mitt’s father) when George W. was born in Mexico? The author states that Gaskell and Anna were born in Utah, but they were not born in the state of Utah. Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt Romney were both born in the Territory of Utah in 1871 and 1876 respectively. Gaskell’s father (Mitt’s great grandfather) Miles Romney was a polygamist. The 1882 Edmunds Act stripped polygamists of the basic rights of U.S. citizenship. Since the Romney’s lived in the Territory of Utah at that time, did they have any US citizenship, and if so, was it stripped by the Edmunds Act? In 1884 Miles Romney moved his multiple wives and children from the Territory of Utah to Mexico. Then in 1896 the Territory of Utah became a state. Since the Romneys moved to Mexico before 1896, how could they have received US citizenship since they were no longer residents of the Territory of Utah when it became a state. When George W. Romney (Mitt’s father) was born in Mexico in 1907, George W. became a native Mexican (based on the location of his birth), whether or not he was legally recognized as such. Some argue that George W. was in fact a Mexican citizen at birth.

    How did those in the Territory of Utah naturalize to become US citizens? One source states, “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who applied for naturalization during the 1870s and 1880s were often denied because of polygamy.” https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Utah_Naturalization_and_Citizenship

    Another article states that when the Territory of Utah became a state in 1896, “resident noncitizens did not automatically become U.S. citizens even if they had filed declarations of intention of becoming U.S. citizens.” The article also stated “We know from a contemporaneous news story that as of October 15 1967, George W. Romney hadn’t filed any particular papers to make himself a citizen.” http://wtpotus.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/mitt-romney-natural-born-citizenship-and-media-bias/

    So since Mitt’s grandparents Gaskell and Anna Romney were born in the Territory of Utah (which did not automatically make them US citizens) and had left the Territory of Utah before it became a state, where is the proof that Gaskell and Anna Romney had US citizenship to pass on to their son George W. Romney when he was born in Mexico in 1907? Where is the proof that George W. Romney had US citizenship to pass on to his son Mitt Romney when he was born in 1947?

  5. Patriot35

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Thank you, Paul.

    That all makes perfect sense. Since ‘natural born’ is a function of conditions at a moment in time, citizenship status offered by another country sometime in the future can have no bearing on that moment in time in the past – when one was born.

  6. dude911

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    why are we doing this again…its simple…

    romney is the rino’s answer to evade the obama issue…if they introduce a candidate that is not qualified…just like the DNC did in 08…then they have set precident as the 2 party system…allowing for non natural born citizens to be POTUS…

    they dont care about the US Constitution, nor the people who are the sovern power in this nation…they only care about stripping that power and infusing it into the federal government…and enslaving the entire nation under thier false rule

  7. John Sutherland

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    My own research confirms some of the information in this article and disagrees with some other information. Utah was a territory when Gaskel was born in St. George. Genealogical reports indicate that Gaskell ROMNEY was born 22 September 1871 in St. George, Utah Territory and that he married 20 February 1895 in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, Anna Amelia PRATT, the daughter of Helaman PRATT and Anna Joanna Dorothy (Dora) WILCKEN. Anna was born 6 May 1876 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.

    This article says: “His parents were Gaskell and Anna Amelia Pratt Romney, both ex-patriot American citizens who were born in Utah [Territory] and who met and married in Mexico. Family histories indicate that they did not renounce their U.S. citizenship upon arriving in Mexico.”

    Really? I would like to see the original ‘family histories’ released to the public domain. The evidence supporting whether or not Gaskell and/or Anna renounced their U.S. citizenship has never been revealed. What is known, however, is that Gaskell was a landowner in Mexico, and, if I interpret Mexican law at the time accurately, that required Mexican citizenship. Did the assumption of Mexican citizenship require exclusive citizenship, or did Mexico allow dual citizenship.

    No one I am aware of has done a thorough review of American laws, Mexican laws, Romney family history, and the citizenship question with regard to the Romney family. The fact that Mitt Romney refuses to address this issue smacks of intended fraud. We’ve had this happen before with obama. We don’t need to have it happen again.

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