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Ted Cruz releases his birth certificate: A harbinger of debates to come?

According to legal scholars, it's fairly clear that the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was born in Canada doesn't disqualify him from running for president.

"It's pretty clear that he's eligible because he was a citizen at birth," Peter Spiro, a law professor at Temple University who specializes in constitutional and immigration law, told

University of California, Davis law professor Gabriel Chin agreed "there's no question" that Cruz has been a U.S. citizen from birth.

In fact, Cruz's eligibility is even more cut-and-dry than Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's eligibility was in 2008, Chin argues. Still, as Cruz started gaining notoriety within the conservative community, his presidential potential was at times mentioned alongside his ""birther" background. The issue finally reached a point this week where Cruz released his birth certificate (check it out here), as well as a statement saying that his allegiance is with America.

"The Dallas Morning News says that I may technically have dual citizenship," he said in the statement Monday night. "Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship. Nothing against Canada, but I'm an American by birth and as a U.S. Senator, I believe I should be only an American."

The debate over Cruz's eligibility has been driven in large part by the obvious irony of the situation: Some of his likely supporters are the very same people who persistently questioned President Obama's origins. While there doesn't seem to be any uncertainty about Cruz's eligibility - and there were never any legitimate questions about Mr. Obama, since he was born in Hawaii - the constitutional requirement for the president to be a natural-born citizen may only become more problematic in future elections.

"It's no coincidence that most of these issues have come up in modern times," Chin said. "We are in an era of high immigration, we're certainly in an era of world travel and globalization, so the fact that somebody is of Cuban ancestry is certainly not disqualifying to be president."

Spiro noted that temporarily working abroad, as Cruz's parents were in Canada, is much more common now. "There's much more cross-border movement now, so the odds of something happening like this - a person emerging who would be a good president but was born abroad - are increasing," he said.

Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada in 1970 to a Cuban father and American mother.

"Because my mother was a U.S. citizen, born in Delaware, I was a U.S. citizen by birth," Cruz explained in his statement Monday night. "When I was a kid, my Mom told me that I could choose to claim Canadian citizenship if I wanted. I got my U.S. passport in high school. Because I was a U.S. citizen at birth, because I left Calgary when I was 4 and have lived my entire life since then in the U.S., and because I have never taken affirmative steps to claim Canadian citizenship, I assumed that was the end of the matter."

But it wasn't the end of the matter. Donald Trump, one of the biggest purveyors of the Obama "birther" myth was asked about Cruz's eligibility on ABC's "This Week" earlier this month. "If he was born in Canada, perhaps not." Trump said. "I don't know the circumstances. I heard somebody told me he was born in Canada. That's really his thing."

Ted Cruz mocks IRS before conservative group 00:29

Questions of eligibility have certainly come up in previous presidential elections, since the Constitution says only "natural-born" citizens can be president. There are reports that in the 1800's Chester Arthur, the 21st president, had his eligibility for office questioned when rumors spread that he was born in Canada. In 1967, questions arose as to whether Michigan Gov. George Romney (Mitt Romney's father) could run for president, since he was born to U.S. citizens in Mexico.

Spiro said that Romney's case set the "clearest precedent" for Cruz, though Romney's candidacy never flourished to the point where the issue had to be addressed. If Cruz launched a serious presidential bid, some action may be needed to clarify his eligibility. For instance, in 2008, the Senate passed a resolution declaring that GOP candidate McCain was a natural-born citizen, even though he was born on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936.

A political resolution would be necessary, Spiro said, because "a court is never going to touch this issue."

It's unlikely any individual would have standing to bring such a case before the Supreme Court, Spiro said. Furthermore, "It's just too political. If it's clear that it's going to be resolved through other channels, there's just no need for the courts to be involved."

If Cruz did have to broach the subject more seriously, he could have an easier time than McCain, said Chin. He argued in 2008 that McCain was not eligible. "There's no question he's a citizen, it's just a question of whether he's a natural-born citizen," he said.

Chin explained that in 1936, the Panama Canal Zone was a "no-man's land," which was under the jurisdiction of the United States but not part of the United States. It wasn't until 1937 that Congress voted to give retroactive citizenship to those born to U.S. citizens in the Canal Zone dating as far back as 1904 (when it came under U.S. jurisdiction).

"Nobody thinks that somebody who gets citizenship after they're born could be president," Chin said. "We couldn't retroactively declare Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a citizen at birth."

That said, both Chin and Spiro said it's time for the rule to change.

"What would be wrong with having Jennifer Granholm or Arnold Schwarzenegger as president, if that's what the people wanted?" Chin asked of the two foreign-born former governors.

Added Spiro: "The idea that one has to prove one's allegiance just because one was born in another country just doesn't add up anymore. It's anachronistic, and it's a shame that we have to address this question."

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