Our VoiceCulture

Race and the Questioning of “Natural Born Citizens”


Glenn Hutchinson • Feb 23, 2012

Marco Rubio (l) & Wendy Ruiz (r)

Sen. Rubio is a citizen, and so is Wendy Ruiz. But some people question whether they are “natural born citizens.”

After doubting Pres. Obama’s birth certificate, the birthers have now attacked Marco Rubio, a conservative senator from Florida. Even though the rising GOP star was born in Miami, Sen. Rubio’s parents are immigrants from Cuba.

Why would that make a difference?  Well, since his parents, who fled the Castro regime, weren’t yet citizens at the time of his birth, the birthers claim he’s not technically a “natural born citizen,” and is therefore ineligible to be president. Rubio obviously isn’t running for president, but he’s often mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate for the GOP ticket this fall.

Luckily, most people realize this is a crazy argument. In a recent radio interview with Rubio even the conservative commentator Sean Hannity agreed that Rubio is a citizen with full rights.  His parents were eventually granted citizenship, as they were Cuban exiles.

But what about Wendy Ruiz?  Why does a young American like Wendy Ruiz get unequal treatment by the law?  Even though she also was born in Miami, the Florida legislature forces her and other students to pay more to attend college.  As discussed in my last blog, students like Wendy will pay three times more for tuition because her parents couldn’t attain the same “papers” that Rubio’s parents could.

Paying out-of-state tuition creates a huge roadblock for many to pursue higher education.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has filed a lawsuit challenging this law.  Let’s hope they prevail because the Florida legislature has failed to fix this problem.

The talk about Sen. Rubio and immigrant students is an unsettling debate about who is and isn’t a “natural” citizen, per se.  Didn’t we settle this back in 1868 when the 14th amendment stated that everyone born here is a citizen with “equal protection of the laws?”

So even when a conservative senator like Marco Rubio doesn’t support the Dream Act for young immigrants and becomes a spokesperson for the conservative movement, some will still question whether he’s a “natural” citizen.  Why?

Here’s the one word answer: race.

It’s time for America to realize that when people use terms like “illegal” and question whether someone is a “natural born citizen,” they really are talking about race. And that is unacceptable.  We need to celebrate the diversity of our country and its citizens. Sen. Rubio is a citizen. President Obama is a citizen. Wendy Ruiz is a citizen. And the millions of undocumented people who are paying taxes and contributing to our communities should have a chance to be citizens too.

The color of your skin should have nothing to do with your citizenship status.

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