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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is not a natural-born U.S. citizen and therefore is not eligible to run for president, according to a lawsuit filed by a Utah citizen in federal court last Friday that echoes a common charge from opponent Donald Trump.
Cruz was born in Calgary to a Cuban citizen and a U.S. citizen. At the time, plaintiff Walter Wagner argues, both of Cruz's parents were seeking permanent Canadian residence.
Wagner, a 65-year-old former attorney living in Utah County, cites a Washington Post op-ed written by Widener University constitutional law professor Mary McManamon, in which she argues that contrary to "a supposed consensus among legal experts," "[t]he framers of the Constitution required the president of the United States to be born in the United States."
Self-described as a "centrist," Wagner said he's not advocating for a particular candidate. Rather, he said, "it miffs me that someone who's not eligible would want to say that he is."
He has "a lot of interests," he said, and in 2008 sued to prevent atom-smashing in the Large Hadron Collider beneath the Switzerland-France border, fearing Earth's destruction. Wagner said he'd been researching Cruz's eligibility for about a month and composed his complaint in a couple of hours.
University of Utah law professor Wayne McCormack said Tuesday that he questioned whether anybody other than Congress or another presidential candidate would have standing to challenge Cruz. Wagner said that as a citizen registered to vote, his standing is sufficient.
The Constitution's framers are widely thought to have included the "natural-born" clause along with a 35-year age minimum and 14-year residency requirement as a bulwark against foreign influence.
Wagner said he can't be sure if Cruz is influenced by his birth country.
"If he did have a Canadian agenda, you know what? I like Canada," he said. "... but it's the precedent."
Given that "natural-born" is not defined by the Constitution and that, as Wagner writes, "case law is lacking on this issue directly," the clause has been a fertile source of debate.
Some questioned the eligibility of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during his 2008 bid, even though he was born in the Panama Canal zone, under U.S. control, to a U.S. naval officer. McCain has said he's unsure about Cruz's status.
Houston lawyer Newton Schwartz was reportedly the first to challenge Cruz's eligibility in court, filing a federal suit in Texas that Wagner said is "cumbersome," whereas Wagner believes his is "succinct."
A recent poll of Utahns commissioned by The Tribune had Cruz in a four-way statistical tie among GOP candidates Cruz with 18 percent, Trump with 17 percent, and surgeon Ben Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with 15 percent.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch proposed an amendment in 2003 that would have repealed the natural-born citizen clause, allowing anybody who has been a U.S. citizen for 20 years to seek presidential office.