Immigrant as a U.S. State Governor? Has this ever happened before?

The Governor-Elect of my state was born in Austria. Have there been any other U.S. State Governors who were not born in the United States? I realize that to be President of the U.S. you have to have been born in the U.S. Are there any U.S. States that have a law saying to be Governor you have to have been born in the U.S.?

You could become President of the United States even if you were born in Germany or Egypt.

The restriction is that you must be a natural-born citizen. This can happen even in other countries if you’re born to US parents.

To answer the OP’s question, in Virginia there is no such natural-born requirement for Governor. Virginians require only that the person be a current citizen of the United States, at least thirty years old, a resident of Virginia, and a registered voter in Virginia for five years preceding his or her election.

So, had Mr. Schwarzenegger chosen to live in Virginia, he’d have been eligible to be elected Governor here as well.

  • Rick

The present governor of Michigan was born a Canadian citizen, and is a naturalized American citizen.

Currently, there is a person of East Indian descent running for governor of Louisiana. I’m not sure if he was born as US citizen or not, but if not, by next year we might have three governors of US states who are naturalized, not native-born, citizens.

I’d be surprised if there weren’t other foreign-born governors in the past.

I’m sorry, that is not correct. Quoting from Article II, Sec. 1, Paragraph 5 of the US Constitution:

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

I know lots of diplomat/military kids who are bitter that they’re ineligible for the office, even though their parents only happened to be outside the US while engaged in the nation’s business. But they are.

Since this is a nation of immigrants, I can’t believe Ahhnold would be the first foreign born governor. A quick review of yielded:

Derbigny, Pierre Auguste Charles Bourguignon (1769-1829) – also known as Pierre A. C. B. Derbigny – Born in France, June 30, 1769. Secretary of state of Louisiana, 1820-28; Governor of Louisiana 1828-1829.

No doubt there are others. Here in Minnesota we had four years of native born and raised “Jesse the Body”. After his four years, many Minnesotans would have voted for a Stalinist Central Party Committee member from Mongolia instead of him again. Not necessarily my opinion but the guy sure did know how to piss the electorate off.

Actually, you are wrong. A person born to US citizens is a natural born US citizen, regardless of where that birth takes place.


So, natural born does not mean born on US soil. It means that you are a US citizen when born, and never naturalized.

Krokodil, you’re wrong, and you should be more careful about checking your facts. Someone who was born outside the U.S. but whose parents were American citizens is most certainly a natural-born citizen and is thus eligible to become President. Check out the following website (and Google on “natural-born citizen” and “President” for more such websites):

Nevada has had three foreign-born governors:

Frank Bell, acting Gov. 1890, born in Toronto, Ontario
John Edward Jones, Gov. 1895-96 (Died in office), born in Montgomeryshire, Wales
Reinhold Sadler, Gov. 1896-1902, born in Czarnikau, Prussia

So there’s at least that much precedent.

Another good cite:

Children with one parent who is a US citizen and one who is not are also frequently natural-born citizens of the US if born outside the US. (If they’re born inside the US, of course they are.) If only one parent is an American citizen, though, he or she must have lived in the States for a certain amount of time to pass the citizenship on to his or her children. That residency requirement has changed through the years and I’m not sure what it is now; nine years ago when my first son was born it was five years, at least one of which had to happen after the parent’s fifteenth birthday.

Do you have any credible citation for your idea that “natural born Citizen,” as it appears in the Constitution, means “only a person born on US soil?”

Here’s a hint: no.

The reason you don’t is because it doesn’t mean that. “Natural born Citizen,” as appears in the Constitution, means simply that a person is born a citizen, either by being born within the borders of the United States - the common law principle of jus soli - or by being born to US parents abroad, as Congress codified in 8 USC 1401.

To quote from that federal law:

So… you are not correct, Krokodil.

  • Rick

Your cite doesn’t distinguish between “nationals and citizens” and “natural-born citizens.” I’ll concede your point if a foreign-born child of two US citizens posts here and tells me I’m wrong (Believe me, they’ve all looked into this exhaustively). But the ones I’ve discussed this with all have told me otherwise.

You really should have thought through that statement about kids who were born overseas. You know better.

Do the kids have to petition for resident status when moving back to America? No. Do they have to petition to become citizens? No. Can they just grow up and vote and do everything like everyone else? Yes.

Jeez, even the missionary kids, whose parents weren’t serving in the military don’t have to do anything special.

I did think it through, Cardinal. They have all the same rights as folks who were born here–except for that niggling solitary one.

I repeat, I’ll concede the point if one of the people actually affected by this odd rule (foreign-born child of US citizens) posts here and tells me different. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable standard, and I’d be very surprised if no SDMB regulars fit the bill. None of the other cites provided is all that compelling, IMO.

One of my closest friends, a son of a very old and wealthy American familiy, had the unique fortune to be born in Venezuela. I’ve walked through US/Canadian border crossings with him, and the results are hilarious. This discussion has come up between us on numerous occasions.

As far as I can tell, your authority, Krokodil, seems to be word of mouth from persons not particularly experts in the field. Now you’ll concede the point if someone else, also not an expert, posts a personal anecdote.

Fascinating standard of proof.

In contrast, I have posted the US federal law. For discussion of this law, there are many Supreme Court cases. I think the seminal one is called US v. Wong Kim Ark.

There’s also the cite that Wendell Wagner posted.

In fact, why didn’t it sink into your head that your idea of the rule was wrong when Senator John McCain was a candidate for President? McCain was born outside the US. According to the Washington Post:

quote]Some might define the term “natural-born citizen” as one who was born on United States soil. But the First Congress, on March 26, 1790, approved an act that declared, “The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the United States.” That would seem to include McCain, whose parents were both citizens…

Here are some more references:

Perhaps a bit of research that goes beyond asking a few friends is in order… or, if you are going to continue focusing myopically on asking your friends, perhaps you should ask them how they got the idea that only persons born on US soil are natural-born citizens. I’m willing to bet the answer isn’t “hours of diligent research consulting appropriate authorities.”

  • Rick

Krokodil, what would it take to convince you that you are completely wrong? We have cited the actual law that explicitly states that people born out of the US to US citizens are natural born citizens of the US. We have people well versed in the law who have examined the issue and concluded that there is no problem. We have major US presidential candidates who were born in foreign countries to US citizens and no one questioned their ability to run for president.

Against that you have some friends who claim they can’t run for president with no evidence to back them up. That’s it.

So, the onus is on you to come up with something, anything, that supports your claim.

As far as I know, the meaning of the phrase “natural born citizen” has never been definitively ascertained. Back in 1952, there was a minor rush for someone named, IIRC, Christian Herter, who was born outside the US to citizens and the question was briefly discussed, but never settled. My guess would be that the courts would decide to let the citizens decide. This was the position they took when Robert Kennedy ran for US Senate from NY on the basis of somewhat questionable (to say the least) residence there. I suppose the same could be said for their current junior senator. Anyway, absent a court decision, this debate has become a shouting match and cannot be settled.

From the Washington Post link:

Seems pretty clear cut to me.

As has been mentioned already, Jennifer Granholm, the current governor of Michigan, is a Canadian who became a U.S. citizen, just like Arnie.

BTW, right now is probably the most likely time in history for the amendment to be changed that disallows former non-Americans from being president.

It would never be changed as long as one party would benefit at the expense of another. But right now, each party has a ‘star’ that is an immigrant. Jennifer Granholm is a Democrat, and an extremely popular one. I could see a time in the future in which both parties would think that their best shot for the presidency lies in their respective immigrants, and they could agree to drop the constitutional requirement. It’s unlikely, especially after 9/11, but remote as the possibility is, it’s probably better today than at any time in the past or reasonable future after these two are out of politics.


Rogers v. Bellei, 401 U.S. 815 (1971): Aldo Mario Bellei was found to be a natural-born citizen; he was born in Italy to a US-citizen mother.

I already mentioned United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649.

See also Weedin v. Chin Bow, 274 U.S. 657.

See also Mock Gum Ying v. Cahill, 81 F.2d 940.

Commentaries: see 3 Hackworth, Digest of International Law, 222; cf. Matter of Owen, 36 Op. Atty. Gen. 197, 200.

Exactly how many court decisions did you need?

  • Rick