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A History of U.S. Citizenship

July 04, 1997

1776: Declaration of Independence assails King George III for preventing colonies from naturalizing new settlers.

1790: Naturalization reserved for "free white person[s]" with at last two years residence.

1802: Jeffersonian Republicans repeal 14-year residency mandate breifly imposed by rival Federalists.

1848: Treaty ending U.S.-Mexico War guarantees citizenship to Mexican subjects in new territories, including California. Federal courts later cite treaty as removing racial bars to naturalization for Mexican settlers.

1857: Dred Scott decision holds that a "negro" cannot be a citizen.

1868: Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to those U.S.-born, cementing status of most blacks but leaving uncertainty on other minorities.

1882: Chinese Exclusion Act bars Chinese from naturalization.

1898: U.S.-born children of foreign nationals guaranteed citizenship, Supreme Court rules, even if immigrant parents are barred.

1906: Safeguards set for naturalization includes ability to speak and understand English.

1931: Repeal of statute stripping women of citizenship if they marry a foreigner racially barred from becoming a citizen.

1940: Birthright citizenship to Native Americans granted.

1944: Then record 442,000 naturalize amid wartime anxiety; 96% are Europeans, 1 in 4 Italian.

1952: Law amended to say citizenship "shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex," ending 162-year legacy of racial bars.

1996: Record of more than 1.1 million people take citizenship oath; Asians and Latinos top list.

1997: Amid charges that ineligible criminals are being naturalized, federal officials move to strip citizenship of 5,000 immigrants with criminal arrest records.*

Sources: U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; Ian F. Haney Lopez, "White by Law, The Legal Construction of Race," New York University Press, 1996; Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups

Sources: U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; Ian F. Haney Lopez, "White by Law, the Legal Construction of Race," New York University Press, 1996; Harvard encyclopedia of American ethnic groups

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