To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
Naturalization and Citizenship
Clause 4. The Congress shall have Power * * * To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.
Nature and Scope of Congress’s Power
Naturalization has been defined by the Supreme Court as “the act of adopting a foreigner, and clothing him with the privileges of a native citizen.”1310 In the Dred Scott case,1311 the Court asserted that the power of Congress under this clause applies only to “persons born in a foreign country, under a foreign Government.”1312 These dicta are much too narrow to describe the power that Congress has actually exercised on the subject. The competence of Congress in this field merges, in fact, with its indefinite, inherent powers in the field of foreign relations. “As a government, the United States is invested with all the attributes of sovereignty. As it has the character of nationality it has the powers of nationality, especially those which concern its relations and intercourse with other countries.”1313
Congress’s power over naturalization is an exclusive power; no state has the independent power to constitute a foreign subject a citizen of the United States.1314 But power to naturalize aliens under federal standards may be, and was early, devolved by Congress upon state courts of record.1315 And though the states may not prescribe requirements for citizenship, they may confer rights, including political rights, to resident aliens. At one time, it was not uncommon for states to confer the right of suffrage upon resident aliens, especially upon those who had declared their intention to become citizens, and several states continued to do so until well into the twentieth century.1316
Citizenship by naturalization is a privilege to be given or withheld as Congress may determine: “It is not within the province of the courts to make bargains with those who seek naturalization. They must accept the grant and take the oath in accordance with the terms fixed by the law, or forego the privilege of citizenship. There is no middle choice.”1317 This interpretation makes of the naturalization power the only power granted in § 8 of Article I that is unrestrained by constitutional limitations on its exercise. Thus, the first naturalization act enacted by the first Congress restricted naturalization to “free white person[s],”1318 which was expanded in 1870 so that persons of “African nativity and . . . descent” were entitled to be naturalized.1319 “Chinese laborers” were specifically excluded from eligibility in 1882,1320 and the courts enforced these provisions without any indication that constitutional issues were thereby raised.1321 These exclusions are no longer law. Present naturalization statutes continue to require loyalty and good moral character and generally bar subversives, terrorists, and criminals, among others, from citizenship.1322
Although the usual form of naturalization is through individual application and official response on the basis of general congressional rules, naturalization is not so limited. Citizenship can be conferred by special act of Congress,1323 it can be conferred collectively either through congressional action, such as the naturalization of all residents of an annexed territory or of a territory made a state,1324 or through treaty provision.1325
Categories of Citizens: Birth and Naturalization
The first sentence of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contemplates two sources of citizenship and two only: birth and naturalization.1326 This contemplation is given statutory expression in § 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952,1327 which itemizes those categories of persons who are citizens of the United States at birth; all other persons in order to become citizens must pass through the naturalization process. The first category merely tracks the language of the first sentence of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment in declaring that all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens by birth.1328 But there are six other categories of citizens by birth. They are: (2) a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe, (3) a person born outside the United States of citizen parents one of whom has been resident in the United States, (4) a person born outside the United States of one citizen parent who has been continuously resident in the United States for one year prior to the birth and of a parent who is a national but not a citizen, (5) a person born in an outlying possession of the United States of one citizen parent who has been continuously resident in the United States or an outlying possession for one year prior to the birth, (6) a person of unknown parentage found in the United States while under the age of five unless prior to his twenty-first birthday he is shown not to have been born in the United States, and (7) a person born outside the United States of an alien parent and a citizen parent who has been resident in the United States for a period of ten years, provided the person is to lose his citizenship unless he resides continuously in the United States for a period of five years between his fourteenth and twenty-eighth birthdays.
Subsection (7) citizens must satisfy the condition subsequent of five years continuous residence within the United States between the ages of fourteen and twenty-eight, a requirement held to be constitutional,1329 which means in effect that for constitutional purposes, according to the prevailing interpretation, there is a difference between persons born or naturalized in, that is, within, the United States and persons born outside the confines of the United States who are statutorily made citizens.1330 The principal difference is that the former persons may not be involuntarily expatriated whereas the latter may be, subject only to due process protections.1331
The Naturalization of Aliens
Although, as has been noted, throughout most of our history there were significant racial and ethnic limitations upon eligibility for naturalization, the present law prohibits any such discrimination.
“The right of a person to become a naturalized citizen of the United States shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex or because such person is married.”1332 However, any person “who advocates or teaches, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches . . . opposition to all organized government,” or “who advocates or teaches or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches the overthrow by force or violence or other unconstitutional means of the Government of the United States” or who is a member of or affiliated with the Communist Party, or other communist organizations, or other totalitarian organizations is ineligible.1333 These provisions moreover are “applicable to any applicant for naturalization who at any time within a period of ten years immediately preceding the filing of the petition for naturalization or after such filing and before taking the final oath of citizenship is, or has been found to be, within any of the classes enumerated within this section, notwithstanding that at the time the petition is filed he may not be included within such classes.”1334
Other limitations on eligibility are also imposed. Eligibility may turn upon the decision of the responsible officials whether the petitioner is of “good moral character.”1335 The immigration and nationality laws themselves include a number of specific congressional determinations that certain persons do not possess “good moral character,” including persons who are “habitual drunkards,”1336 adulterers,1337 polygamists or advocates of polygamy,1338gamblers,1339 convicted felons,1340 and homosexuals.1341 In order to petition for naturalization, an alien must have been resident for at least five years and to have possessed “good moral character” for all of that period.
The process of naturalization culminates in the taking in open court of an oath “(1) to support the Constitution of the United States; (2) to renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the petitioner was before a subject or citizen; (3) to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (4) to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and (5) (A) to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law, or (B) to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law, or (C) to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law.”1342
Any naturalized person who takes this oath with mental reservations or conceals or misrepresents beliefs, affiliations, and conduct, which under the law disqualify one for naturalization, is subject, upon these facts being shown in a proceeding brought for the purpose, to have his certificate of naturalization cancelled.1343 Moreover, if within a year of his naturalization a person joins an organization or becomes in any way affiliated with one which was a disqualification for naturalization if he had been a member at the time, the fact is made prima facieevidence of his bad faith in taking the oath and grounds for instituting proceedings to revoke his admission to citizenship.1344
Rights of Naturalized Persons
Chief Justice Marshall early stated in dictum that “[a] naturalized citizen . . . becomes a member of the society, possessing all the rights of a native citizen, and standing, in the view of the Constitution, on the footing of a native. The Constitution does not authorize Congress to enlarge or abridge those rights. The simple power of the national legislature is, to prescribe a uniform rule of naturalization, and the exercise of this power exhausts it, so far as respects the individual.”1345 A similar idea was expressed in Knauer v. United States.1346 “Citizenship obtained through naturalization is not a second-class citizenship. . . . [It] carries with it the privilege of full participation in the affairs of our society, including the right to speak freely, to criticize officials and administrators, and to promote changes in our laws including the very Charter of our Government.”
Despite these dicta, it is clear that particularly in the past but currently as well a naturalized citizen has been and is subject to requirements not imposed on native-born citizens. Thus, as we have noted above, a naturalized citizen is subject at any time to have his good faith in taking the oath of allegiance to the United States inquired into and to lose his citizenship if lack of such faith is shown in proper proceedings.1347 And the naturalized citizen within a year of his naturalization will join a questionable organization at his peril.1348 In Luria v. United States,1349 the Court sustained a statute making prima facie evidence of bad faith a naturalized citizen’s assumption of residence in a foreign country within five years after the issuance of a certificate of naturalization. But in Schneider v. Rusk,1350 the Court voided a statute that provided that a naturalized citizen should lose his United States citizenship if following naturalization he resided continuously for three years in his former homeland. “We start,” Justice Douglas wrote for the Court, “from the premise that the rights of citizenship of the native-born and of the naturalized person are of the same dignity and are coextensive. The only difference drawn by the Constitution is that only the ‘natural born’ citizen is eligible to be President.”1351 The failure of the statute, the Court held, was that it impermissibly distinguished between native-born and naturalized citizens, denying the latter the equal protection of the laws.1352 “This statute proceeds on the impermissible assumption that naturalized citizens as a class are less reliable and bear less allegiance to this country than do the native-born. This is an assumption that is impossible for us to make. . . . A native-born citizen is free to reside abroad indefinitely without suffering loss of citizenship. The discrimination aimed at naturalized citizens drastically limits their rights to live and work abroad in a way that other citizens may. It creates indeed a second-class citizenship. Living abroad, whether the citizen be naturalized or native-born, is no badge of lack of allegiance and in no way evidences a voluntary renunciation of nationality and allegiance.”1353
The Schneider equal protection rationale was abandoned in the next case in which the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment forbade involuntary expatriation of naturalized persons.1354 But in Rogers v. Bellei,1355the Court refused to extend this holding to persons statutorily naturalized at birth abroad because one of their parents was a citizen and similarly refused to apply Schneider. Thus, one who failed to honor a condition subsequent had his citizenship revoked. “Neither are we persuaded that a condition subsequent in this area impresses one with ‘second-class citizenship.’ That cliche is too handy and too easy, and, like most cliches, can be misleading. That the condition subsequent may be beneficial is apparent in the light of the conceded fact that citizenship was fully deniable. The proper emphasis is on what the statute permits him to gain from the possible starting point of noncitizenship, not on what he claims to lose from the possible starting point of full citizenship to which he has no constitutional right in the first place. His citizenship, while it lasts, although conditional, is not ‘second-class.’”1356
It is not clear where the progression of cases has left us in this area. Clearly, naturalized citizens are fully entitled to all the rights and privileges of those who are citizens because of their birth here. But it seems equally clear that with regard to retention of citizenship, naturalized citizens are not in the secure position of citizens born here.1357
On another point, the Court has held that, absent a treaty or statute to the contrary, a child born in the United States who is taken during minority to the country of his parents’ origin, where his parents resume their former allegiance, does not thereby lose his American citizenship and that it is not necessary for him to make an election and return to the United States.1358 On still another point, it has been held that naturalization is so far retroactive as to validate an acquisition of land prior to naturalization as to which the alien was under a disability.1359
Expatriation: Loss of Citizenship
The history of the right of expatriation, voluntarily on the part of the citizen or involuntarily under duress of statute, is shadowy in United States constitutional law. Justice Story, in the course of an opinion,1360 and Chancellor Kent, in his writings,1361 accepted the ancient English doctrine of perpetual and unchangeable allegiance to the government of one’s birth, a citizen being precluded from renouncing his allegiance without permission of that government. The pre-Civil War record on the issue is so vague because there was wide disagreement on the basis of national citizenship in the first place, with some contending that national citizenship was derivative from state citizenship, which would place the power of providing for expatriation in the state legislatures, and with others contending for the primacy of national citizenship, which would place the power in Congress.1362 The citizenship basis was settled by the first sentence of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, but expatriation continued to be a muddled topic. An 1868 statute specifically recognized “the right of expatriation” by individuals, but it was directed to affirming the right of foreign nationals to expatriate themselves and to become naturalized United States citizens.1363 An 1865 law provided for the forfeiture of the “rights of citizenship” of draft-dodgers and deserters, but whether the statute meant to deprive such persons of citizenship or of their civil rights is unclear.1364 Beginning in 1940, however, Congress did enact laws designed to strip of their citizenship persons who committed treason,1365 deserted the armed forces in wartime,1366 left the country to evade the draft,1367 or attempted to overthrow the government by force or violence.1368 In 1907, Congress provided that female citizens who married foreign citizens were to have their citizenship held “in abeyance” while they remained wedded but to be entitled to reclaim it when the marriage was dissolved.1369
About the simplest form of expatriation, the renunciation of citizenship by a person, there is no constitutional difficulty. “Expatriation is the voluntary renunciation or abandonment of nationality and allegiance.”1370 But while the Court has hitherto insisted on the voluntary character of the renunciation, it has sustained the power of Congress to prescribe conditions and circumstances the voluntary entering into of which constitutes renunciation; the person need not intend to renounce so long as he intended to do what he did in fact do.1371
The Court first encountered the constitutional issue of forced expatriation in the rather anomalous form of the statute,1372 which placed in limbo the citizenship of any American female who married a foreigner. Sustaining the statute, the Court relied on the congressional foreign relations power exercised in order to prevent the development of situations that might entangle the United States in embarrassing or hostile relationships with a foreign country. Noting too the fictional merging of identity of husband and wife, the Court thought it well within congressional power to attach certain consequences to these actions, despite the woman’s contrary intent and understanding at the time she entered the relationship.1373
Beginning in 1958, the Court had a running encounter with the provisions of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which prescribed expatriation for a lengthy series of actions.1374 In 1958, a five-to-four decision sustained the power to divest a dual national of his United States citizenship because he had voted in an election in the other country of which he was a citizen.1375 But at the same time, another five-to-four decision, in which a majority rationale was lacking, struck down punitive expatriation visited on persons convicted by court-martial of desertion from the armed forces in wartime.1376 In the next case, the Court struck down another punitive expatriation visited on persons who, in time of war or emergency, leave or remain outside the country in order to evade military service.1377 And, in the following year, the Court held unconstitutional a section of the law that expatriated a naturalized citizen who returned to his native land and resided there continuously for a period of three years.1378
The cases up to this point had lacked a common rationale and would have seemed to permit even punitive expatriation under the proper circumstances. But, in Afroyim v. Rusk,1379 a five-to-four majority overruled the 1958 decision permitting expatriation for voting in a foreign election and announced a constitutional rule against all but purely voluntary renunciation of United States citizenship. The majority ruled that the first sentence of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionally vested citizenship in every person “born or naturalized in the United States” and that Congress was powerless to take that citizenship away.1380 The continuing vitality of this decision was called into question by another five-to-four decision in 1971, which technically distinguished Afroyimin upholding a congressionally prescribed loss of citizenship visited upon a person who was statutorily naturalized “outside” the United States, and held not within the protection of the first sentence of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment.1381 Thus, although Afroyim was distinguished, the tenor of the majority opinion was hostile to its holding, and it may be that a future case will overrule it.
The issue, then, of the constitutionality of congressionally prescribed expatriation is unsettled.