Rep. pushes resolution to keep niece’s White House dreams alive

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STATE HOUSE — At 11 years old, Alena Mulhern has her sights set on the Oval Office, and with help from a relative on Beacon Hill has embarked on a campaign to eliminate a major barrier she faces on her road to the White House.

Adopted when she was 10 months old, Mulhern, of Kingston, is on track to meet nearly every qualification needed to make a run for the nation’s highest office in 2040 – when she’d be the constitutionally required age of 35 years old – except that she was born in China.

Alena Mulhern, 11, taped part of an interview with NBC News correspondent and First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager outside the State House on Thursday, May 19. [Photo: Antonio Caban/SHNS]

“I think this barrier should be changed because there are plenty of good candidates that were adopted and would make a perfect president and would want to become president, but they can’t because of the law,” said Mulhern, who added her inspiration to run for office was touched off when she was 8 years old and visited Washington D.C.

Under the Child Citizenship Act passed by Congress in 2000, adopted children like Mulhern are granted automatic citizenship if they are adopted to U.S. citizens, but they are not considered as natural born citizens – a constitutional qualification to run for president.

“We tell kids when they’re little you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, and some kids want to be astronauts, cab drivers or plumbers,” said Rep. Josh Cutler, a Democrat from Duxbury who is Mulhern’s uncle. He continued, “She wants to be president, and we want to see her dreams be able to be alive.”

With his niece in mind, Cutler filed a resolution (H 3317) calling on Congress to enact legislation that would redefine natural born citizens to include foreign-born adopted children who meet existing conditions under the Child Citizenship Act.

“This is just an extension of that law saying, ‘Okay, they’re automatically citizens and we’re going to say that they are considered naturalized citizens as well.’ Congress can define what a naturalized citizen is. It doesn’t mean we have to make any changes to the Constitution,” Cutler told the News Service.

A statement of the Legislature’s sentiments, a resolution does not require the signature of the governor and essentially expresses to Congress that House lawmakers have an opinion on the matter.

The measure called “Resolutions Equality for America’s adopted children,” received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs on May 25. It has five co-sponsors – Reps. Marjorie Decker, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Christopher Walsh, Paul McMurtry and Marcos Devers – and is competing with scores of bills for the attention of lawmakers as formal sessions wind down this year.

More than 261,000 adoptions have taken place in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015, according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, a division of the Department of State. In fiscal 2015, China led the world as the country of origin for most U.S. adoptions.

“This is very important to me because kids have a voice and people should know that kids have a voice and I want to make everything fair,” said Mulhern, who said she’s met with legislative aides and various media outlets to highlight the change she’s seeking.

Mulhern received some national media exposure and was interviewed at the State House last month by NBC News correspondent and former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager.

As for 2016, when asked if she favored any of the three major party candidates still vying for the presidency, Mulhern was candid.

“No, because I don’t know every problem in the world yet, because I’m only eleven. I’m sure that the country will make the right decision,” she said.

— Written by Antonio Caban

Copyright State House News Service