Afroyim v. Rusk Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Afroyim decision established that U.S. citizenship may not be revoked involuntarily for actions such as voting in a foreign country.

Beys Afroyim, a naturalized citizen from Poland, moved to Israel and voted in an Israeli election in 1951. When he attempted to renew his U.S. passport in 1960, the U.S. State Department refused his request, based on the Nationality Act of 1940, which stipulated that voting in a foreign election would result in a loss of citizenship. In an earlier decision, [c]Perez v. BrownellPerez v. Brownell (1958), the Supreme Court had upheld the law by a 5-4 vote. In a civil action against the secretary of state, nevertheless, Afroyim argued that the revocation of his citizenship was unconstitutional.[c]Afroyim v. RuskCitizenshipVoting;in foreign countries[foreign countries][c]Afroyim v. RuskCitizenship[cat]COURT CASES;Afroyim v. Rusk[00060][cat]CITIZENSHIP AND NATURALIZATION;Afroyim v. Rusk[00060]Voting;in foreigncountries[foreign countries]

By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court agreed with Afroyim’s contention. Writing for the majority, Black, Hugo L.Justice Hugo L. Black emphasized that the first clause of the [a]Fourteenth AmendmentFourteenth Amendment was written in order to ensure that U.S. citizenship would be “permanent and secure.” The decision had the result of encouraging the right of U.S. citizens to hold Dual citizenshipdual citizenship. In [c]Vance v. TerrazasVance v. Terrazas (1980), the Court held that the intent to give up one’s citizenship must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, not simply inferred from acts such as voting in a foreign country. According to the State Department, citizenship may be revoked for treason. In a few other cases, particularly [c]Fedorenko v. United StatesFedorenko v. United States (1981), the Court would uphold the government’s power to revoke citizenship if deception had been used in the naturalization process.[c]Afroyim v.RuskCitizenship

Further Reading
  • Starkey, Lauren. Becoming a U.S. Citizen: Understanding the Naturalization Process. New York: Kaplan, 2006.
  • Wernick, Allan. U.S. Immigration and Citizenship: Your Complete Guide. Roseville, Calif.: Prima, 2002.


Dual citizenship

Fedorenko v. United States

Immigration law

Supreme Court, U.S.

Categories: History