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by John Sutherland, ©2012

Article II, Section 1, clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the president and commander-in-chief be a "natural born Citizen"

(Jan. 17, 2012) — The Question

Besides his political views, the primary questions going around about Mitt Romney are concerned with his status as a natural born citizen.  The answer to the natural born citizen question includes consideration of the status of land ownership in the United States and Mexico in the 19th century, the citizenship laws of the two countries and their territories, the timing of family immigration between the two countries, and the intention of the families and individuals with regard to citizenship.  The last element is perhaps the most difficult to determine because everyone who would be important in establishing Mitt Romney’s status as a natural born citizen is now dead, and we have to rely on family and legal records, clear legal precedent at the critical time periods, and maybe a court determination or two.

Backing up a bit, my basic question with regard to this whole discussion is why, in light of the HUGE controversy about Barack Hussein Obama’s (assuming that is his real name) status as a natural born citizen, hasn’t this problem already been asked and answered by the GOP?  Why do American citizens have to ask and answer the question?  Is the GOP whistling past the graveyard on this issue, or do they know for certain that there is a problem?  And if they know there is a problem, why has the GOP overwhelmingly embraced Mitt Romney (or Rick Santorum, another candidate with a questionable NBC status) as their chosen candidate?

Out of 300+ million people living in the USA, there have to be many, many qualified presidential candidates in which the question of natural born citizenship is NOT an issue.  Interestingly enough, the antithesis of the GOP favored sons, Ron Paul, does not seem to have a natural born citizenship issue.  What is wrong-headed with the GOP in 2012?  Why are they leaving themselves open to criticism this way?  Are they trying to lose the election in 2012?

In this article I’m not going to try to determine legally the answer to Mitt Romney’s status, largely because it is not my job to do so, but also because I am not qualified to do so.  Having acknowledged that, however, it is my intention to put this question squarely on the table for discussion.  To begin:

Nineteenth Century Mexico

For three centuries, Mexico was a colony of Spain, during which time its indigenous population fell by more than half.  After a protracted struggle, Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1810. The Mexican Revolution (1910–1929) resulted in the death of ten percent of the nation’s population and brought to an end to the system of large landholdings that had originated with the Spanish Conquest in 1519.  In 1846, the Mexican-American War broke out, ending two years later with Mexico ceding almost half of its territory to the United States.

Later in the 19th century, France invaded Mexico (1861) and set Maximilian I on the Mexican throne, which lasted until 1867.  In 1867, the republic was restored and Benito Juárez was reelected as president.  Juárez continued to implement his own reforms.  In 1871, Juárez was elected a second time, much to the dismay of his opponents within the Liberal party, who considered reelection to be somewhat undemocratic, but he died one year later and was succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada.  Part of Juarez’s reforms had included fully secularizing the country. The Catholic Church was barred from owning property aside from houses of worship and monasteries, and education and marriage were put in the hands of the state.

In 1876, Porfirio Díaz managed to overthrow Tejada, who fled the country, and Diaz was named president.  Thus began a period of more than 30 years (1876–1911) during which Díaz was Mexico’s strong man.  During this period, the country’s infrastructure improved greatly, thanks to increased foreign investment and a strong, stable central government.

So, it is clear that Mexico, like many other Latin American countries (Brazil being a notable exception), was colonized by the Spanish, and was subsequently involved in the great revolutions and turmoil in the southern Americas in the 1820s.

The Utah Territory and Statehood

The Mexican-American War (1846 to 1848), followed by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (February 2, 1848) and the Gadsden Purchase (December 30, 1853), resulted in U.S. control over a wide range of territory once held by Mexico, including the present-day borders of Texas and the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Although the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo promised that the landowners in this newly acquired ‘territory’ would enjoy full protection of their property ‘as if they were citizens of the United States,’ many former citizens of Mexico lost their land in lawsuits before state and federal courts or as a result of legislation passed after the treaty.

The controversies stirred by the Mormon religion’s dominance of the Utah Territory is regarded as the primary reason behind the long delay of 46 years between the organization of the Utah Territory on September 9, 1850 and its admission to the Union as the 45th state on January 4, 1896 as the ‘State of Utah,’ a time long after the admission of several other territories that had been created after it.

It is evident from early literature that members of the Mormon Church, valuing polygamy over U.S. law, fled to Mexico from the U.S. for religious freedom in the 1880s.  Several early articles describing the migration of Mormons from the United States to Mexico were published by The Farmington Daily Times in 1995.  The period of Mormon migration started in the 1880s – a period of importance to the Romneys.

Question:  What exactly was the citizenship of the residents of Utah Territory in the 46 years between purchase and statehood?

The Romney Families

From genealogical records, Miles Park ROMNEY was born 18 August 1843 in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois (Illinois became the 21st state on December 3, 1818) and married first 10 May 1862 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, Hannah Hood HILL, the daughter of Archibald Newell HILL and Isabella HOOD. She was born 9 July 1842 in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada and died 1 January 1929 in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

He married second 23 March 1867 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, Caroline LAMBOURNE, the daughter of William LAMBOURNE and Diana SIMMS. She was born 14 May 1846 in Chively, Berkshire, England and died 11 September 1879 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.

He married third 15 September 1873 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, Catherine Jane COTTAM the daughter of Thomas COTTAM and Caroline SMITH. She was born 7 January 1855 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and died 4 January 1918 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.

He married fourth 1 August 1877 in St. George, Washington, Utah, Alice (Annie) Maria WOODBURY, the daughter of Orin Nelson WOODBURY and Ann CANNON. She was born 14 October 1858 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and died 14 January 1930 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.

In 1884 or 1885, in the face of the messy business over polygamy, Miles Romney set off from Utah Territory to Chihuahua Mexico to raise his family and create a refuge for fellow Mormons about two hundred miles south of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.  One of the children he brought with him was Gaskell Romney, son of Miles Park Romney and Hannah Hood Hill.

Miles Park Romney married fifth 2 Feb 1897 in Chihuahua, Mexico, Emily Henrietta EYRING SNOW, the daughter of Henry Carlos Ferdinand EYRING and Maria BOMMELL; widow of William Spencer SNOW. She was born 18 April 1870 in St. George, Washington, Utah and died 18 May 1947 in Logan, Cache, Utah. Miles Park died 26 February 1904 in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico.

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.

In 1878, the Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. United States that religious duty was not a suitable defense for practicing polygamy, and many Mormons went into hiding; later, Congress began seizing church assets.  In September 1890, church president Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto that officially suspended the practice of polygamy.  Although this Manifesto did not dissolve existing plural marriages, relations with the United States markedly improved after 1890, such that Utah was admitted as a U.S. state in 1896.

It appears here that the Mormon Church was at odds with the United States government in the 1880s, and so an important question to insert here is:  what exactly was the citizenship status of the Mormons when they fled the Utah Territory in the 1880s?

Gaskell Romney was one of the Romneys born in St. George, Utah (1871), and he had moved to Mexico with his parents amid the proliferation of U.S. laws prohibiting “unlawful cohabitation.” Anna Pratt was also born in Utah Territory (1876), but had emigrated to Mexico and lived in one of nine Mormon colonies established over the border.

Gaskell Romney and Anna Pratt had seven children, including George Romney.   According to genealogical dataGeorge Wilcken ROMNEY was born in the Mormon colonies of Chihuahua, Mexico on July 8, 1907 prior to the Mexican Revolution of 1910 (as noted, the actual revolution went on from 1910 until 1929). He was the fifth son of Gaskell and Anna Pratt Romney.  George Romney’s grandparents were polygamous Mormons who fled the [Utah Territory of the] United States when the Mormon church disavowed polygamy; polygamy was a federal crime in the U.S. and in Mexico, but ignored in remote Mexican villages.  George Romney lived with his parents in Mexico until 1912, when the family moved to Oakley, Idaho, and finally ended up settling in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Question:  In consideration of Mexican law and U.S. law at the time, what was the citizenship of the returning Romneys in 1912?  Did the Gaskell Romneys have to naturalize into the U.S., and if so, did they do so?

George Romney married 2 July 1931 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, Lenore Emily LAFOUNT, the daughter of Harold Arundel LAFOUNT and Alma ROBINSON. She was born 9 November 1908 in Logan, Cache, Utah and died 7 July 1998, in Bloomfield Hills, Oakland, Michigan. George died 26 July 1995 in Bloomfield Hills, Oakland, Michigan.  George and Lenore had four children, including Willard Mitt ROMNEY, born 12 Mar 1947 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan.

U.S. Citizenship

The Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868 and was intended to protect children born in the United States. The phrase: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” was interpreted by the Supreme Court in the 1898 case United States v. Wong Kim Ark as covering everyone born in the U.S. regardless of the parents citizenship, with the exception of the children of diplomats.  See articles elsewhere discussing jus soli (birthplace) and jus sanguinis (bloodline) components of citizenship.

It would seem obvious that Mitt Romney is a U.S. citizen (not so obvious with the current resident of the White House, I realize), but the question remains, were both of Mitt Romney’s parents U.S. citizens at the time of his  birth, and if so, where is the un-tampered evidence of their citizenship?  Did they have U.S. passports?  If so, what established their U.S. citizenship?  Neither the GOP, nor Mitt Romney, as far as I know, has ever addressed the subject of his natural born citizenship publicly, and I don’t believe the question has ever been tested in the courts.  So, what’s the answer, and why is there a question?

I hope there are really simple, easily verifiable answers to my few questions.

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  1. Quote from Rule of Law:

    “Obama changed the game and the Republicans allowed it. It is too late to put that cat back in the bag.”

    Not too late to hold those involved in the biggest fraud/charade in history accountable for their crimes against the Constitution and the people of America, and certainly not too late to prevent a repeat of the same crimes in 2012.

    America’s survival depends on it!

  2. All: I do not believe that George Romney was born a Mexican national under Mexican law or recognized as such under U.S. law. It is my understanding that the “jus soli” provision in the 1886 law only applied to persons born in Mexico who maintain Mexican residency to the age of majority. That is they had to be born in Mexico and remain and live there until they were legally an adult. Since George Romney left Mexico at circa age 5 with his father Gaskell Romney, that jus soli provision of 1886 law would not apply to George Romney. It is also my understanding, that the 1886 law also had a provision for loss of Mexican status, if one had it in the first place, for extended absence from the country. I do not believe that George Romney was born a Mexican national and recognized as such under Mexican law or U.S. law.

  3. There are two forms of citizenship in the US. It is not as critical as it used to be but it is still telling in light of the current NBC issues. You are at once a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the State you reside in. You have some rights which are held in common between the two citizenships and you have rights which are vastly different between the two. Your constitutional rights come into play under your US citizenship and your voting rights under your State citizenship.

    If Romney is a natural born citizen, so be it. However, that does not mean in light of the questions raised, that Romney is off limits being asked to produce his bona fides with respect to his claim of NBC. If you have it, show it.

    Obama changed the game and the Republicans allowed it. It is too late to put that cat back in the bag. To date no one has shown PROOF that George Romney was ever recognized by the US Government as a US citizen. Since everyone seems so sure it exists, let it be produced and vetted. That is what an election is for, the vetting of candidates. Trust me no longer applies because there is no one running for President who can be trusted.

    Or is there one set of rules for some in this country and another set for others?

    Prove the claim or stop wasting everyone’s time. I find it telling that a candidate for President has the audacity to tell his BOSSES to shut up and vote.

    1. I must disagree that there are only two forms of citizenship. One can be born a citizen
      and not be a natural born citizen, then there is the naturalized citizen.

      I have heard and read it argued all to often that there are only two types of citizen,
      therefore if one is not a naturalized citizen he must be a natural born citizen. Also
      just being born on american soil and not under full jurisdiction thereof does not
      instill citizenship of any form.

      1. There are three methods of obtaining US citizenship: born, derivative and naturalization. Born and naturalized are spelled out in the 14th amendment. Derivative has been around since the 1790s.

        What I am talking about are the various rights you have per the two forms of Government we have in this country. You have a Federal Government and a State Government and they are separate in duties and obligations. Part of the reason so many have run into problems with Obama’s vetting is that they assume there is only one form of Government and that is the Federal Government. This is not true, there are two. You are, at once, a US citizen AND a State citizen. At the Federal level you are recognized as born a citizen, a citizen by descent and limited naturalization process and formal naturalization. At the State level your state citizenship is recognized through your length of residence and your registration for voting. The STATE protects your voter franchise from threats of voter fraud. That is well established. What we are struggling with now, is if the State is also responsible for protecting your voter franchise from Election fraud by the National Political Parties. It is my opinion that the State is absolutely tasked with protecting the State granted voter franchise from any threat, Federal or local. Now all we need is to have the cases placed in the correct courts and heard on the merits. Anyone who has a case in the district court, had better yank that case, because you will be ruled against. The district courts have no jurisdiction to hear this kind of case. Only the State Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court have the right and duty to hear these cases..

  4. I inserted Mexican history with this article because George Romney was born in Mexico, and we not only have to consider his parents citizenship, but we must also consider how Mexico viewed people born on Mexican soil at the time of George’s birth.

    Prior to the Mexican revolution, and while Mexico was part of the Spanish Crown under King Ferdinand VII, the Constitution of Cádiz (1812) was the organic instrument. Article 5 of the Constitution of Cádiz provides that “All free men born and residing in the domains of the Spains [sic], and the progeny of these” are Spaniards. But there is obviously more to the discussion than this reference. Later versions of the Mexican Constitution define anyone born on Mexican soil, regardless of the parent’s citizenship, as a ‘natural born Mexican.’ Was this true with George Romney? What was his citizenship? Was he a dual national?

    For background, see http://blogs.loc.gov/law/2011/02/the-history-of-the-mexican-constitution/ for a history of Mexican Constitutions.

    To me, there are two primary concerns with regard to the Romneys: what were the U.S. laws concerning citizenship at the various times for the Romneys, and what were the corresponding Mexican laws during these same time periods.

    How did these laws effect the Romney’s citizenship? What happened to the Romney’s citizenship as they moved around the west? What was the Romney’s intentions regarding their own citizenship? Did they consider themselves Americans, Mexicans, or Mormons?

  5. I was curious about the question being raised about Romney’s eligibility to be president but quickly concluded he does indeed meet the constitutional requirement of natural born citizenship. He was born in Detroit to US citizen parents, end of story. It matters not where George Romney was born. Just today I read an article with a misleading headline on the subject by Dr. Jerome Corsi suggesting Romney wasn’t eligible. But in the body of the article Dr. Corsi stated that Romney is a natural born citizen and eligible for the office of president.

    1. Pianoman – How do you know Mitt Romney’s parents were both U.S. citizens, without any foreign allegiances, at the time of his birth in 1947? If you have some evidence or proof of their U.S. citizenship, that’s what we’re all looking for. It’s real simple.

  6. The points raised in this article are timely. I have also wondered if the natural born citizen claim for Mitt Romney was as clean as he claims it is.

    First, when Gaskell Romney and Anna Pratt-Romney left the US they left a US territory, not the US. This means that they were citizens of the state of Utah, but not US citizens. When they left to settle in Mexico they left the ‘jurisdiction’ of the US and thus could not have been made citizens when Utah became a part of the Union. They had left the JURISDICTION of the United States. US citizenship would not have been passed along to George automatically because neither Gaskell or Anna were US citizens at the time. It seems to me that George Romney would have had to undergone full naturalization when he and his family returned from Mexico. Mitt Romney’s claim to natural born citizenship is not as cut and dried as he would lead us to believe.

    1. I’m not so sure. It kinda boils down to whether a citizen born in a US Territory is a citizen of the United States. If they are then the grandparents were US citizens and George Romney being born to two US citizens would be a US citizen. If so, he wouldn’t have had to be naturalized, and if that is the case then Mitt would be a natural born citizen. I realize there are a lot of if’s, buts, or’s and maybes.

      1. one other point, as best I can ascertain, it seems that if a person born in a US territory is the child of one US citizen, then he is a US citizen. I can’t really determine if either of George Romneys parents are US citizens under this scenario. but if so then George would be a citizen and therefore Mitt would be natural born one… IF, if, IF. …..

    2. Also note that Mexicans in the Utah Territory at the time of the purchase were allegedly treated ‘as if they were citizens of the United States’ and that’s why I am asking that citizenship be firmly established for the Romneys.

      The Mormons held up Utah statehood for 46 years over their religious beliefs. Did they not consider themselves U.S. citizens during this period?

      Regarding citizenship issues, what was really going on in Utah territory between 1850 and 1896?