A Concise History of U.S. Citizenship
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  • The earliest statute was passed in the reign of Edward III. In the Rolls of Parliament of 17 Edw. III. (1343), it is stated that, 'before these times there have been great doubt and difficulty among the lords of this realm and the commons, as well men of the law as others, whether children who are born in parts beyond sea ought to bear inheritance after the death of their ancestors in England, because no certain law has been thereon ordained'; and by the king, lords, and commons it was unanimously agreed that 'there was no manner of doubt that the children of our lord, the king, whether they were born on this side the sea or beyond the sea, should bear the inheritance of their ancestors'; 'and in regard to other children it was agreed in this parliament that they also should inherit wherever they might be born in the service of the king'; but, because the parliament was about to depart, and the business demanded great advisement and good deliberation how it should be best and most surely done, the making of a statute was put off to the next parliament. 2 Rot. Parl. 139. - U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 18 S.Ct. 456 U.S. 189
  • To encourage also foreign commerce, it was enacted by statute 25 Edw. III. st. 2. that all children born abroad, provided both their parents were at the time of the birth in allegiance to the king, and the mother had passed the seas by her husband's consent, might inherit as if born in England: and accordingly it hath been so adjudged in behalf of merchants. But by several more modern statutes these restrictions are still farther taken off: so that all children, born out of the king's ligeance, whose fathers were natural-born subjects, are now natural-born subjects themselves, to all intents and purposes, without any exception ; unless their said fathers were attainted, or banished beyond sea, for high treason; or were then in the service of a prince at enmity with Great Britain. William Blackstone, Commentaries  1:354, 357--58, 361--62 (1765)
  • Why Minor v. Happersett doesn’t define “natural born citizen” for the children of aliens: Many use this line to claim only children born in the U.S. of Citizen parents are “natural born citizens.” “ The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of their [p168] parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first. ” However, this is not an issue decided by the court in this case evidenced by the fact that the next line: “ For the purposes of this case it is not necessary to solve these doubts . ” What’s more, the court in this case through their legal analysis recognizes only two types of citizenship: “ Additions might always be made to the citizenship of the United States in two ways: first, by birth, and second, by naturalization. This is apparent from the Constitution itself, for it provides [n6] that "no person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President," [n7] and that Congress shall have power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization." Thus new citizens may be born or they may be created by naturalization.”
  • The common law origins of naturalization were also exhibited in Sec. 1 of the Act which stated, “That any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof on application to any common law Court of record in any one of the States wherein he shall have resided for the term of one year at least…”
  • This Act was repealed in 1795 by, United States Congress, “An act to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization; and to repeal the act heretofore passed on that subject” (January 29, 1795). The wording was changed to remove the phrase “natural born citizen” which has not reappeared in U.S. law. The Act stated in Sec. 3, “the children of citizens of the United States, born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, shall be considered as citizens of the United States:   Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons, whose fathers have never been resident of the United States …”


  • 2. Introduction “I can entertain no doubt, but that by the law of the United States, every person born within the dominions and allegiance of the United States, whatever were the situation of his parents, is a natural born citizen.”Lynch v. Clarke and Lynch, Chancery Court of New York (1843), New York Legal Observer, Vol. 3 (1845)
  • 3. OVERVIEW Historical Overview  Modern Implications  Feudal Origins  Dual Citizenship  English Common Law  Renunciation of Citizenship  Constitutional Law  Conclusions Birth on U.S. Soil  Ongoing Debate  Subject to the jurisdiction…  The “Foreign Born” President  Parents’ Citizenship  Questions and Answers  United States v. Wong Kim Ark Birth on Foreign Soil  Roman Law  Common law history  The Act of March 26, 1790
  • 4. HISTORIC OVERVIEW“A citizen is nothing more than an immigrant with seniority.” - Nobel Laureate Gerhard Herzberg “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” - Leviticus 19:33-34
  • 5. Feudal OriginsThe earliest statute was passed inthe reign of Edward III. In the Rollsof Parliament of 17 Edw. III. (1343),it is stated that, “there was nomanner of doubt that the childrenof our lord, the king, whether theywere born on this side the sea orbeyond the sea, should bear theinheritance of their ancestors…”
  • 6. Development of Common Law DoctrinesJus Sanguinis - the “right of the blood.” Citizenship inherited from parent(s) citizenship.Jus Soli – the “right of the land.” Citizenship is granted because of birth in a nation’s territory.Both rules of citizenship became engrained in English Common Law by the time of the Founding.
  • 7. English Common Law[A]ll children, born out of the kings ligeance, whose fathers were natural-born subjects, are now natural-born subjects themselves, to all intents and purposes, without any exception; unless their said fathers were attainted, or banished beyond sea, for high treason; or were then in the service of a prince at enmity with Great Britain.William Blackstone, Commentaries 1:354, 357--58, 361--62 (1765)
  • 8. English to American Common Law“There is, however, one clear exception to the statement that there is no national common law. The interpretation of the constitution of the United States is necessarily influenced by the fact that its provisions are framed in the language of the English common law, and are to be read in the light of its history.” Smith v. Alabama, 124 U. S. 478, 8 Sup. Ct. 569 (1888).
  • 9. U.S. Constitution“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President…” U.S. Const. art. 2, §1.
  • 10. Constitutional Types of CitizenshipBy birth – Only those born a U.S. Citizen may be President of the United States.By naturalization – Representatives and Senators may be U.S. Citizens through Naturalization.
  • 11. John Jay’s Letter to George Washington New-York, 25th July, 1787. Dear Sir, Permit me to hint whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of foreigners into the administration of our national government ; and to declare expressly that the commander in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on any but a natural born citizen. I remain, dear sir, Your faithful friend and servant, John Jay.
  • 12. Birth on U.S. Soil – U.S. JurisdictionCommon Law and the Constitution through the 14th Amendment grant citizenship to those born on U.S. soil and who are “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”This prevented Native Americans from becoming citizens because, although they were born in the U.S., they were deemed loyal to their tribe and not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.Children of foreign officials, by this rule and through customary international law and the common law, are also not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.
  • 13. Birth on U.S. Soil – Non-Citizen ParentsCommon law dictates that even children of those temporarily in the U.S. are “natural born citizens.”Conflicts with laws that provide that children born on foreign soil retain the citizenship of their parents.Case law such as U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) has helped to set the precedent.
  • 14. United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898)Wong Kim Ark was the U.S. born child of Chinese immigrants (LPR).U.S. law prohibited Chinese nationals from becoming U.S. Citizens.Wong was detained coming back from a visit to China and faced deportation.United States contended Wong was not a citizen because his parents could never be citizens.
  • 15. United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) - 2The Court concluded:  “The refusal of congress to permit the naturalization of Chinese persons cannot exclude Chinese persons born in this country from the operation of the constitutional declaration that all persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”  “The laws conferring citizenship on foreign-born children of citizens do not supersede or restrict, in any respect, the established rule of citizenship by birth.”
  • 16. Birth on Foreign Soil – Roman Law Roman law first introduced the concept of jussanguinis – allowing citizenship to pass from theparents to the child, regardless of where the child was born.
  • 17. Birth on Foreign Soil – Common Law Blackstone’s Commentaries (1765) expressed citizenship in terms of allegiance. The children of those who owed allegiance to the crown also owed allegiance, regardless of place of birth.“Allegiance is the tie, or ligamen, which binds the subject to the king, in return for that protection which the king affords the subject.”
  • 18. Birth on Foreign Soil – Act of March 26, 1790In its first naturalization statute, Congress declared that “the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens…” 1 Stat. 104 (1790).
  • 19. Act of March 26, 1790 - Continued“Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States…”
  • 20. MODERN IMPLICATIONSDual Citizenship:  While the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli would seem to have long created dual citizenship, the principle is modern.  In the past, one’s citizenship would have to be determined upon reaching age 21.  Many nations in the past did not recognize jus soli citizenship as applying to the children of foreign nationals.  Duel citizenship does not remove an individual’s status as a natural born citizen, but would seem to contradict the spirit of the clause as outlined by John Jay, preventing dual loyalty.
  • 21. MODERN IMPLICATIONRenouncing Citizenship  Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967) affirmed citizenship is an individual right which must be affirmatively renounced by an individual on foreign soil.  The mere act of swearing allegiance in an oath of citizenship to another nation will not necessarily cause one to lose their U.S. citizenship.  A minor cannot lose his/her citizenship through the action of parents or guardians.
  • 22. CONCLUSIONSOngoing debate  “[A] majority of commentators today argue that the Presidential Eligibility Clause incorporates both the common- law and English statutory principles, and therefore, Michigan Governor George Romney, who was born to American parents outside of the United States, was eligible to seek the Presidency in 1968” – Heritage Foundation’s Guide to the Constitution.  U.S. Senate passed a non-binding resolution asserting John McCain, born of U.S. parents on foreign soil, was a natural born citizen.
  • 23. The Foreign Born PresidentFather was not a U.S. citizenDuring the campaign, a prominent Northeastern attorney questioned whether the candidate was born in the U.S.Some media picked up on the story and citizen groups demanded proof of his birth in the U.S.Even if he was born in the U.S., the attorney contended that he also had the foreign citizenship of his father and his duel citizenship would also make him ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • 24. The Foreign Born President - Chester A. Arthur
  • 25. QUESTIONS? Thank You
  • 26. The Tale of Guillermo SchmidtGuillermo Schmidt is a Mexican citizen. He was born in Mexico City in 1937. He has been in the U.S. countless times, but apart from attending high school in Michigan from age 14 – 17, he has never lived in the United States, until three years ago when he secretly crossed the border looking for better work opportunities in the U.S.His father was born in Northwestern Mexico in 1901, and his mother was born in Central Mexico. His paternal grandfather was born in New York in 1850, the son of German immigrants, but lived for much of his youth in California. He moved to Mexico after marrying a Mexican national. After dying suddenly in 1905, his wife moved with the children to Arizona where she raised her children, eventually dying in Arizona in 1940.Guillermo is now facing deportation. Can Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deport Guillermo as an illegal alien?