For example, if President Trump invaded and claimed Sudbury, Ontario over a dairy dispute, could Alex Trebek run for President in the next election?

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    There actually is a precedent case for this: When the United States annexed Texas in 1845. But I can't find a source right now stating what legal status Texan citizens had after the annexation.
    – Philipp
    May 4, 2017 at 21:55
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    Based on the present status of Puerto Ricans, I would assume that a Texan born before Texas was a state could not serve as president.
    – Brian Z
    May 4, 2017 at 22:23
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    @BrianZ that piece is just one law student's opinion about the present status of Puerto Ricans. A Supreme Court justice has offered a different opinion on the question. Who is more likely to be correct?
    – phoog
    May 5, 2017 at 7:58
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    @phoog both are pure speculation. Granted, it's informed speculation as both are well versed in the law. But there is no "answer" here. It's a purely hypothetical question.
    – user1530
    May 5, 2017 at 13:55
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    Put me in the camp that sees both resolutions as legitimate answers to the question. There is also considerable dispute over when litigation over the eligibility of a candidate to serve as President becomes ripe or moot, and over which forums have jurisdiction to resolve that question. Arguably it is a political question vested in the House of Representatives acting in a quasi-judicial capacity as it receives electoral votes, determines their validity, and then determines who win based upon the electoral votes received. It may be moot after the House decides, and it isn't clear when it's ripe.
    – ohwilleke
    May 5, 2017 at 21:40

3 Answers 3


Maybe. It depends on the wording of the annexation treaty. Such a treaty would need to be written with explicit wording regarding the establishment of citizenship and eligibility of for holding the office of President of the United States of residents of the annexed territory.

If the treaty writers decide to stick with tradition, who knows. For territories annexed to date, the phrase in the treaties that established citizenship read:

the enjoyment of all these rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States

Since there are no people currently alive who were born in an annexed territory, and no one from an annexed territory ever tried to run for president, there is no precedent that establishes whether this phrasing is sufficient to establish such residents as "natural born" citizens or not.

There have been several annexations throughout the history of the U.S. The annexation treaties contain clauses concerning the citizenship status of residents of annexed territories. For instance, the Louisiana Purchase stated it this way:

Art: III

The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States and admitted as soon as possible according to the principles of the federal Constitution to the enjoyment of all these rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States, and in the mean time they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the Religion which they profess.

The Adams-Onus treaty says:

ARTICLE 6 The Inhabitants of the Territories which His Catholic Majesty cedes to the United States by this Treaty, shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, as soon as may be consistent with the principle of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of all the privileges, rights and immunities of the Citizens of the United States.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo refers back to earlier treaties:

(Article iX): ... With respect to political rights, their condition shall be on an equality with that of the inhabitants of the other territories of the United States; and at least equally good as that of the inhabitants of Louisiana and the Floridas, when these provinces, by transfer from the French Republic and the Crown of Spain, became territories of the United States.

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    But note that the office of president requires a very specific type of citizenship: that it was obtained from being naturally born here. That said, of course any treaty (I suppose) could grant 'natural born status' to the people (hypothetically, at least).
    – user1530
    May 5, 2017 at 4:43
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    @blip, "naturally born", not "naturally born here". You can be naturally born while still being born abroad, usually because your parent was a U.S. citizen
    – JoelFan
    May 5, 2017 at 4:57
  • @JoelFan yes, good point.
    – user1530
    May 5, 2017 at 7:10
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    Whoa. the begining of this answer is confused. Article 6 does not make treaties laws on par with consitutional clauses. if it did, then so would "the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance [of this Consitution]" (a.k.a. federal laws) be on the same level as the constitution, but we all know federal laws can be unconstitutional. May 8, 2017 at 22:47
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    "Since there are no people currently alive who were born in an annexed territory" Not sure what you count as "annexed", but the Northern Mariana Islands became a US territory in a process lasting from 1978 to 1986. Many people who were born there before it became a US territory are alive today.
    – user102008
    May 12, 2017 at 8:10

No. Alex Trebek was born in Canada. Whether his birth place remained a part of Canada or not wouldn't have much relevance.

That said, I believe this is a purely hypothetical scenario and has never been questioned in court.

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    Can you provide some form of evidence that this is correct? May 5, 2017 at 4:23
  • @BobTheAverage what kind of evidence are you looking for? That's it's purely hypothetical?
    – user1530
    May 5, 2017 at 4:40
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    @Blip Any sort of evidence at all. As it stands, this is purely your opinion based on nothing at all. May 5, 2017 at 5:19
  • @BobTheAverage it's not just my opinion. It's a fact. Trebek was born in Canada. It's also fact that The US Constitution requires that the president be a natural born citizen. I could cite references but these are generally seen as common knowledge.
    – user1530
    May 5, 2017 at 7:06
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    @blip but the question is about the definition of natural-born citizen, especially with respect to annexed territories.
    – phoog
    May 5, 2017 at 8:00

Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. 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;"

This means that the person has to be born a U.S. Citizen; location is irrelevant. Alex Trebek, or any other Canadian-born person, would not be able to run for President if Canada were annexed, because they weren't born as U.S. Citizens.

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    Has it been ruled that sentence means 1787 only? Or perhaps a territory entering the nation and it's citizens granted US citizenship could be said to adopt the constitution.
    – user9389
    May 5, 2017 at 1:46
  • Location is very relevant when determining who is a natural born citizen. May 5, 2017 at 2:27
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    @indigochild but only at the time of birth.
    – user1530
    May 5, 2017 at 4:41
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    @indigochild, sometimes it isn't... for example under certain conditions, having a U.S. citizen parent establishes citizenship regardless of the place of birth. That is what made Ted Cruz eligible and would have made Barack Obama eligible even if he had been born abroad
    – JoelFan
    May 5, 2017 at 4:55
  • I feel that Ted Cruz's campaigning for the presidential spot negates this article. May 5, 2017 at 22:02

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