Published October 20, 2011
| Fox News Latino
Some of the same “birthers” who challenged Barack Obama’s citizenship are now questioning Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s eligibility to run for president or vice president of the United States – a charge Latino legal experts call ‘absurd’ and ‘dangerous.’
The birthers, a name used for individuals who committed themselves to disqualifying Barack Obama from becoming president based on questions over his birth certificate, say that the Cuban-American Rubio is ineligible for the Oval Office under Article 2 of the Constitution, which says “no person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the Office of President.”
Charles Kerchner, a birther blogger, says Rubio, though born in the United States, was not born to U.S. citizens and therefore can’t be characterized as a natural born citizen.
Rubio’s office says he was born in 1971 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, but that his parents did not become citizens until 1975. Kerchner, according to his understanding of the Constitution, believes that makes Rubio ineligible for the office.
Alfonso Aguilar, former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship under the George W. Bush administration, said that claim is preposterous.
“That is absurd. It has no constitutional basis if you are born in the United States or in U.S. territory, you are a natural born citizen. Just like John McCain, who was born in U.S. territory in Panama, Marco Rubio was born in the mainland United States – it doesn’t matter who your parents are,” Aguilar, who is currently the Executive Director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, tells Fox News Latino. “I guess the birthers are not conservative. They are advancing arguments that not only have no constitutional basis but they are un-American, un-patriotic and dangerous.”
Talk over Rubio’s status as a U.S. citizen began in May on a blog written by Kerchner, who obtained copies of the naturalization petitions by the senator’s parents.
Kerchner believes Rubio is no different than Obama, whose father was a Kenyan national. He still doubts whether Obama was even born in Hawaii; regardless, he believes Obama is ineligible to be president because he was not born to two U.S. citizens, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
“Senator Marco Rubio is NOT a natural born Citizen. He was born with dual allegiance,” the May blog post read.
The same post also called for Rubio to investigate President Obama to be removed from office because of “election fraud and criminal activities such as SSN fraud and draft registration fraud.”
Fox News Latino contacted Rubio’s press office for comment, but was referred to the senator’s comments in this St. Petersburg Times story.
“The price of our freedom and our liberty is that people can go out and spend a lot of time on stuff like this,” Rubio told the paper. “For us, the more important things is to focus on our job.”
He told the St. Petersburg Times that he does not know why his parents waited so long to apply for citizenship but that their plight as exiles is appropriate.
“Anyone who can’t return to their natural country is an exile, if you can’t return for political reasons,” he said.
Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of the civil rights organization LatinoJustice-PRLDEF, believes the birthers’ attitudes transcend the many issues addressing Latinos today because they are taking the brunt of those against birthright citizenship.
“If you start attaching conditions to the parents of the children who are born in the United States you go down a slippery slope. The bottom line is we have a country that is devised by this foundation of laws…we are flying in the face of what is considered basic human rights presets, ” he said.
“The birther movement is just an extension of whether people born in the United States should be citizens,” he added.
Cartagena believes the claims can be viewed as bigoted.
“Yes, I see this as part and parcel of differentiating people, not based on their merits but based on technical and erroneous interpretations of law,” he said.
As for Rubio, there are different opinions about what the Republican rising star should do in response to these concerns.
Aguilar believes that he should address the birthers directly because the challenge is bigger than him.
“It is an attack against so many Latino immigrants that come to this country not for handouts, not for social benefits but to become part of America,” he said.
Bryan Llenas can be reached at Bryan.Llenas@foxnewslatino.com.