Legal membership in a country, attained at birth or through naturalization, that conveys certain rights and requires certain responsibilities.
Article I, section 8, of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the right to make laws outlining who is eligible to become a naturalized citizen of the United States and detailing how that eligibility can be established. In January, 1790, President George Washington, in his annual message, expressed his concern over citizenship and naturalization issues, urging Congress to develop naturalization laws. In response to Washington’s concerns, Congress passed a law later that year providing for naturalization of free white aliens who had resided in the United States for at least two years and who made application for citizenship. Over the years, Congress adjusted the residency requirement several times, but it was not until 1866, when the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, that people of color were accepted as citizens of the United States.
In various decisions, the Supreme Court supported the right of Congress to define citizenship and to control immigration and naturalization. In Chy Lung v. Freeman
In 1885 in the Head Money Cases
In the Chinese Exclusion Cases
In United States v. Ju Toy
In Trop v. Dulles
In answering the question of who is eligible for citizenship, the Court made interpretations based on the 1790 law. One of the Court’s most famous statements on eligibility for citizenship was made in Scott v. Sandford
The Dred Scott decision was the not the only one in which race or color was held as an appropriate test for citizenship. In Elk v. Wilkins
The case of Toyota v. the United States
In the 1922 Ozawa v. United States
In 1943 an act of Congress expressly granted Chinese the right to naturalization. In 1945 people from India and the Philippines became eligible for U.S. citizenship. In 1952 the Immigration and Naturalization Act lifted all racial bars to naturalization.
Although in the 1800’s and early 1900’s the Court often ruled that foreign nationals of color could not become naturalized citizens, it was willing to accept the citizenship of people of African
However, in 1998, when a petitioner attempted to use Wong Kim Ark to establish her citizenship in Miller v. Albright
The Court ruled on the nature of citizens’ rights and responsibilities as well as on the nature of citizenship itself. In ruling on cases involving who can be naturalized, the Court often helped all citizens understand what it means to be a U.S. citizen.
In the Slaughterhouse Cases
The Court examined various requirements of U.S. citizenship in cases involving naturalized citizens. In Girouard v. United States
In Mandoli v. Acheson
Good starting points for studying this subject are Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff’s. Semblances of Sovereignty: The Constitution, the State, and American Citizenship (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002) and Ronald B. Flowers’s To Defend the Constitution: Religion, Conscientious Objection, Naturalization, and the Supreme Court (Landham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002), both ofwhich examine the role of the Supreme Court in the definition and application of American citizenship. D. J. Herda thoroughly examines Scott v. Sandford in The Dred Scott Case: Slavery and Citizenship (Springfield, N.J.: Enslow, 1994). Thomas Janoski’s Citizenship and Society: A Framework of Rights and Obligations in Liberal, Traditional, and Social Democratic Regimes (London: Cambridge University Press, 1998) introduces and explains the concept of citizenship, discusses the balance between citizenship rights and obligations, and traces changes in citizenship rights over several centuries. Early historical developments related to U.S. citizenship are examined by J. H. Kettner in The Development of American Citizenship, 1608-1870 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978). Issues that historically affected the Asian immigrant’s ability to become naturalized were explored by M. R. Konvitz in The Alien and the Asiatic in American Law (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1946). Richard Sinopoli discusses the values associated with U.S. citizenship in The Foundations of American Citizenship: Liberalism, the Constitution, and Civic Virtue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). Eve P. Steinberg’s How to Become a U.S. Citizen (New York: Macmillan General References, 1998) explains what steps an immigrant must take to become a naturalized citizen. Aliza Becker, Laurie Edwards, and the Travelers and Immigrants Aid of Chicago also describe the steps in the naturalization process in Citizenship Now: A Guide for Naturalization (Lincolnwood, Ill.: NTC, 1990).
Alien rights and naturalization
Chinese Exclusion Cases
Edwards v. California
Head Money Cases
Hirabayashi v. United States
Korematsu v. United States
Scott v. Sandford
Trop v. Dulles
Wong Kim Ark, United States v.