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Posted on Sun, May 8, 2011 : 5:54 a.m.

Citizenship questions on Mother's Day for President Obama, Wong Kim Ark, Superman and the 'birthers'

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

My oldest daughter was almost born in Thailand. I was living in Kathmandu, Nepal, at the time, and the closest western hospitals were a day’s flight away in Bangkok. I loved cruising Bangkok Chinatown, and I thought that would be a fun way to spend a month, hanging out, waiting for the blessed event.

My mother said absolutely not. I had to go home to deliver the baby so that the child would be a U.S. citizen.

I tried to explain to my mother that the child of two U.S. citizens is automatically a U.S. citizen, no matter where she is born. Even the child of one U.S. citizen is a citizen. I had already checked with the U.S. Embassy.

“What do they know?” was my mother’s response.

And the kicker, “What if your child wants to be president of the United States one day?”

I thought my mother was needlessly worried, but since it was the Christmas season, it was just as easy to go home to California and have the baby among family and friends (and presents). Of course my mother was right.

Now, after President Barack Obama has released his long-form birth certificate to prove yet again that he is a natural-born citizen — which is still not enough to assuage the "birthers" — I see, once again, that my mother is always right. (Happy Mother’s Day!)

I very nearly ruined my beautiful and intelligent multiracial daughter’s future bid for the presidency because I selfishly wanted to tour Buddhist monasteries and eat Thai street food — not because she would not have been a natural-born citizen, but because there would have been so much “silliness” around proving it because she does not look like presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I want to thank an Asian American who is critical to the birther “controversy”: Wong Kim Ark.

Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco to Chinese parents between 1868 and 1873. These were the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act when Chinese were not allowed to come to the United States and Asians were not allowed to naturalize.

He took a trip to China and was not allowed back into the United States because he was Chinese and could not possibly be a U.S. citizen. He had to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected the racist arguments of the day (1898) and ruled that the recently passed 14th Amendment gave all persons born in the United States citizenship, regardless of race. The language is simple:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

My friends chastise me for being naive and idealistic when I argue things like, “But the law clearly says that…” “The constitution provides that…” “Look at this clause in the contract…”

Why am I the unreasonable one for believing in the rule of law, due process, equal protection? I do not want to think about double standards.

Like President Obama, many Americans have their citizenship challenged every day, “Where are you from?” “Where are you really from?

In other news, Superman has just renounced his U.S. citizenship because he does not want his actions to be seen as an instrument of U.S. policy.

Wait, how did he get to be a citizen in the first place? Isn’t he from another planet? Why does it make more sense for Superman to be a citizen than President Obama?

(And now about Superman’s college transcripts.)

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is an editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is on the Advisory Board of American Citizens for Justice. She team-teaches "Asian Pacific American History and the Law" at University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at



Mon, May 9, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Rita Hoeffner, I am stunned and embarrassed for you over your comments. I hate to tell you that you are wrong. Currently, Title 8 of the U.S. Code fills in the gaps left by the Constitution. Section 1401 defines the following as people who are "citizens of the United States at birth:" •Anyone born inside the United States * •Any Indian or Eskimo born in the United States, provided being a citizen of the U.S. does not impair the person's status as a citizen of the tribe •Any one born outside the United States, both of whose parents are citizens of the U.S., as long as one parent has lived in the U.S. •Any one born outside the United States, if one parent is a citizen and lived in the U.S. for at least one year and the other parent is a U.S. national •Any one born in a U.S. possession, if one parent is a citizen and lived in the U.S. for at least one year •Any one found in the U.S. under the age of five, whose parentage cannot be determined, as long as proof of non-citizenship is not provided by age 21 •Any one born outside the United States, if one parent is an alien and as long as the other parent is a citizen of the U.S. who lived in the U.S. for at least five years (with military and diplomatic service included in this time) •A final, historical condition: a person born before 5/24/1934 of an alien father and a U.S. citizen mother who has lived in the U.S. * There is an exception in the law — the person must be "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. This would exempt the child of a diplomat, for example, from this provision. Anyone falling into these categories is considered natural-born, and is eligible to run for President or Vice President. These provisions allow the children of military families to be considered natural-born, for example.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

thanks for looking that up!

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Thanks all for this lively spirited conversation.

Michael K.

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

Maybe it is time to start adding those anti-psychotic medications, like floride, to the water again? There seems to be an increased need for it.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

If Fox News says it's legit, isn't that good enough? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> My scanner does this too--when you scan a document, you can click buttons on whether you want to scan it as text or image or both. Then the software will try to recognize the text. Not 100%, but close. We saved my daughter's fourth grade paper that way once when she had a hard copy but lost the doc file somehow. Saved her (me) hours of retyping...

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:52 a.m.

I was just trying to think of what the tin-foil hat crowd might say in reply. The sarcasm button on my keyboard hasn't been working well lately! Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 2:39 a.m.

I think that was her point!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

Frances, Don't ya know that Fox News is part of the Obama conspiracy machine? I mean, really!! A smart person like you doesn't know that????? Good Night and Good Luck

David Briegel

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 12:02 a.m.

This is the most preposterous place to argue your hate for our great President. You people don't know and are incapable of even understanding our great Constitution. There are claims Obama was born in Kenya. In order for that to have occurred his mother would have to have been in Kenya. Where is YOUR proof that his mother was EVER in Kenya?? Pretty simple. Passports? Kenyan birth records? Must be too simple for ALL of you! Your claims are as believable as the origin of Donald Trump's hair!

G. Orwell

Sun, May 8, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

Dear Ms. Wang, I hate to inform you but Obama's birth certificate is an obvious fake. It was photoshopped. Also, he told us over and over again that he released his birth certificate over two years ago. What he release back then was a forgery of the certificate of live birth (COLB). Short form birth certificate. Fake birth certificate - Photoshopped. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Another person revealing the fake BC. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It is truly surprising how very intelligent people on both the left and the right are fooled so easily. That is the trick. Your leaders get your trust and then lie, lie and lie.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

. . . working for Osama bin Laden


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 4:25 a.m.

And the birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser was actually placed by time-traveling ACORN agents.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

G- I love that YouTube is your trusted source. I vote you up once again not for accuracy but for dedication. And as I've never seen Osama bin Laden unshaven, nor heard him speak in English, there is a chance - just a chance - that Obama really is Osama. The grandest of charades. He has us all fooled.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Sun, May 8, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

A natural born citizen is a person who is a citizen of the United States upon birth, without having to go through the lengthy naturalization process that immigrants have to (and which Asians, Native Americans, and African Americans were not allowed to at various points in history). There are two ways of getting birthright citizenship, jus soli (by soil) and jus sanguinis (by blood). The easiest, most clear-cut, slam-dunk way to be a natural-born citizen is to be born in the United States. That is why President Obama's (or anybody's) birth certificate does not have to say "Natural-born citizen" on it. He is a natural-born citizen by virtue of being born in the United States per the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. I do not know the numbers, but I do not believe many countries allow this kind of jus soli (by soil) citizenship--it is part of what makes the United States so special--and its importance comes out of US history. But that is not the only way of being a natural-born citizen. One can also be a citizen via the citizenship of one's parents. The child of one or two US citizens can also be a natural-born US citizen at birth, <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> but the laws change at different points in time re the details. My daughter would have been a natural-born citizen at birth regardless of where she was born because she had two married US citizens as parents, just like Senator John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone to two married US citizens. President Obama was also a natural-born citizen at birth because his married mother was a US citizen. Both President Obama and Senator John McCain are natural born citizens, however, they have had very different experiences in proving it. As CBS News' Bob Schieffer said, " This is an ugly strain of racism that's running through this whole thing."

Jay Thomas

Sun, May 8, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

It must be nice to be a world traveler, always in some fascinating place. You are very privileged. I wonder what &quot;racist arguments&quot; are being made in Asian countries today to keep foreigners from emigrating there? I can't think of any that would want to extend citizenship to outsiders or change the racial make-up of their country by bringing in millions of immigrants every year. Immigration and &quot;anti-racism&quot; is basically a Western idea -- and *ONLY* a Western idea. Yet all of the other non-white people have been made immune from the charge of racism... which is only made against the people willing to share what they have. Strange world. The Obama family alone is responsible for making his citizenship into an issue. His grandmother started the ball rolling by saying that he was from Kenya (if he was born in Hawaii -- which I accept -- then why would she say that?). Later his wife said the same thing on two different occasions. If this issue is an unfair distraction then they really have only themselves to blame.


Sun, May 8, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

Trust us, Rita, the vast majority of thinking Americans will not take your word for it.

Rita Hoeffner

Sun, May 8, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

Obama thumbed his nose at We The People when he released his obviously and intentionally forged long-form. I scanned my long-form (which looks identical to Obama's since I was born in Sept. of 1961) and created a pdf, just like the one he posted. My pdf contains NO links as his does. And certainly NO links where the images inserted have been resized and rotated to fit. Do some research and check it out for yourself...don't take my word for it.

David Briegel

Sun, May 8, 2011 : 11:53 p.m.

We won't!


Sun, May 8, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

I am going to get my computer machine going and scan my birth certificate too! Then I will join the club of true Americans. My first problem is going to be figuring out what &quot;links&quot; are on a birth certificate though.

Rita Hoeffner

Sun, May 8, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

I find it interesting that you continually use the term US Citizen, but never really touch on the more important term Natural Born Citizen. Yes, your daughter would have been a US Citizen, but not a NBC has she been born while you were being self indulgent in Thailand. So, your mother was very correct - she wouldn't have been eligible to be POTUS. Interesting as well that you claim Obama's newly created long-form affirms that he is a NBC. I have viewed the document as well and although it is an obvious forgery, I see no where on the document that states Obama is a NBC. Perhaps I missed it, could you point me to those words? Or better yet, could you point me to the legal definition of NBC? I see where numerous court finding waffle on the meaning from 1 US parent, to US soil, to 2 US parents and US soil....but no where have if found a definitive and completely agreed upon definition to NBC. Perhaps you could point me to that definition. The problem with Obama is that, as he himself admits, was born with dual citizenships, thus dual loyalties. There is one question you should never ever be able to ask POTUS - which citizenship do you pledge loyalty to. If you can ask that question, because the person was born with dual citizenships, then that person is not a NBC of either country....merely a citizen of both. There is a huge difference between citizen and natural born citizen. Even, as Obama claims, there is a difference between native-born and natural-born. Obama's British father precludes Obama from being a NBC.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 10:59 a.m.

gild: I was writing too quickly (I wish I could edit the post) - the purpose was to help signify intent. The Congressional Research Service addressed the issue in 2009 (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>: &quot;The constitutional history and relevant case law thus indicate that one born &quot;in&quot; the United States, and subject to its jurisdiction, that is, when one's parents are not official diplomatic personnel representing a foreign nation in the U.S., would be considered a U.S. citizen &quot;at birth&quot; or &quot;by birth,&quot; and thus a &quot;natural born Citizen&quot; of the United States, regardless of the citizenship status of that individual's parents.&quot;


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 4:20 a.m.

&quot;Or a Citizen of the United States&quot; is modified by &quot;at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution.&quot; It doesn't refer to all U.S. citizens.


Sun, May 8, 2011 : 11:36 p.m.

Rita is right. If you aren't born on US soil, there is no way you can love this country. and probably are foolish enough to support insane things like healthcare for the poor! The solution to all of the problems in the US is to ignore things like the economy, equal rights, and quality of life and focus on important issues like this!


Sun, May 8, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

&quot;Yes, your daughter would have been a US Citizen, but not a NBC has she been born while you were being self indulgent in Thailand. So, your mother was very correct - she wouldn't have been eligible to be POTUS.&quot; No, no, no. Please read the US Constitution before you spout this sort of thing. I'll do you a favor, here is the direct quote from Article II: &quot;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.&quot; That &quot;or a Citizen of the United States&quot; part is pretty important. That's why John McCain was eligble to run for President.


Sun, May 8, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

We have grown so dumb that even Bobby Jindal released his &quot;long form&quot; birth certificate. Of course, it doesn't say &quot;Bobby&quot; on it so more fodder for nonbelievers...