United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In an interpretation of the immigration laws, the Supreme Court held that immigrants from India were ineligible to become naturalized citizens, and since the decision classified Indians as Asians, it eliminated a number of legal rights that immigrants from India had previously enjoyed.

Bhagat Singh Thind, a resident of Oregon, was an immigrant from the Punjab region of northwestern India. When he applied for naturalization in the United States, he appeared to have a good chance of having his application accepted. Although U.S. immigration law had since 1790 restricted naturalization to “white persons,” in the previous year’s case of [c]Ozawa v. United StatesOzawa v. United States the U.S. Supreme Court had defined the term as synonymous with the word “Caucasian.” Anthropologists at the time classified people of northwestern India as belonging to the “Caucasian race.” It was also relevant that Thind was a person of light complexion and a member of a high caste, which meant that his ancestors had presumably been Aryans who spoke an Indo-European language.Naturalization;United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[c]United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[c]Bhagat Singh Thind, United States v.CitizenshipAsian Indianimmigrants;United States v. Bhagat Singh ThindThind, Bhagat SinghNaturalization;United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[c]United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[c]Bhagat Singh Thind, United States v.CitizenshipAsian Indian immigrants;United States v. Bhagat Singh ThindThind, Bhagat Singh[cat]COURT CASES;United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[cat]SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST ASIAN IMMIGRANTS;United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[cat]CITIZENSHIP AND NATURALIZATION;United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind

Nevertheless, in Thind’s case the U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously that immigration laws did not permit any persons of Indian ancestry to become naturalized citizens. In the official opinion for the Court, Justice Sutherland, GeorgeGeorge Sutherland wrote that such an individual was not a “white person” as used in the “common speech . . . interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man.” Although high-caste Indians in the Punjab had historically attempted to preserve the “purity of Aryan blood,” Sutherland wrote that they had not been entirely successful, so that there had been an “intermixture of blood” with Asian races. Because the decision classified Indians as Asians, they henceforth fell under the restrictions of the California Alien Land Law, making it illegal for them to own land in the state. In addition, Mozumdar, A. K.A. K. Mozumdar, the first person of Indian origin to have been naturalized, had his citizenship revoked. The Thind ruling was overturned by the [a]Luce-Celler Bill of 1946[Luce Celler Bill of 1946]Luce-Celler Bill of 1946, insofar as it extended the privilege ofnaturalization to Indians.Naturalization;United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[c]United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind[c]Bhagat Singh Thind, United States v.CitizenshipAsian Indian immigrants;United States v. Bhagat Singh ThindThind, Bhagat Singh

Further Reading
  • Hyung-chan, Kim, ed. Asian Americans and the Supreme Court: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992.
  • Rangaswamy, Padma. Indian Americans. New York: Chelsea House, 2007.

Asian immigrants

Asian Indian immigrants

Citizenship

Congress, U.S.

Naturalization Act of 1790

Ozawa v. United States

Supreme Court, U.S.

“Undesirable aliens”

Categories: History Content