When traveling in Italy, Elaine stumbles upon an old man sitting outside a store named “Costanza’s.” After telling Frank about the store, he reveals that he was born in a village in Tuscany, Italy and yells out that since he was not born in the United States he could never be President and never had any interest in politics. He has never even voted. Is it true that Frank could never run for President?
Well, it is not so clear. The Constitution of the United States in Section I, Article II, Clause V, provides three requirements for an individual to run for President: (1) they must be a natural-born citizen, (2) they must be at least 35 years old, and (3) they must be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. It seems safe to assume that Frank is at least 35 years old and that he has lived in the United States for at least 14 years. But is he a natural-born citizen? Well, let’s find out.
(Editor’s Note: The only exception for someone not “natural-born” citizen is someone who was a citizen at the time of the founding of the United States. Otherwise, people like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the other early presidents would not have been eligible.)
The Fourteenth Amendment provides that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” This clause has been almost universally interpreted to mean that anyone born in the United States is a “natural-born citizen” for the purposes of running for the position of President. The Supreme Court has ruled in U.S. v. Wong that anyone born within the United States is a citizen. This concept is known as jus soli, that just by being born on American soil entitles a person to citizenship. But there many other ways for someone to be considered a “natural-born” citizen.
For example, 8 USC 1401 provides a range of possibilities for someone to be born overseas but still be considered “nationals and citizens of the United States at birth,” including instances where only one parent is a citizen of the United States.
To begin with, the simple fact that Frank was born in Italy does not, on its own, disqualify him from running for President. While unlikely, one of his parents may have been a US citizen traveling overseas. Alternatively, he may have been born in the United States while his mother was traveling and then was raised in Italy.
Regardless, Frank should not feel totally removed from US politics. While he is most likely ineligible to run for President, (or vice-president, under the 12th amendment), he is almost certainly eligible to vote and run for almost any other public office, including the House of Representative or the Senate, if he became a U.S. Citizen. Many governors, most famously Arnold Schwarzenegger, were born overseas but became active in American politics.
But would voters actually find Frank charming and elect him to be president. Well, that’s a very different questions. After all, we have already elected a loud red-headed septuagenarian from Queens.