A xenophobic 1907 U.S. law stripped U.S. citizenship from any native-born woman who dared to marry a foreign man. Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minn.) is trying to secure an official Senate apology for the 1907 law — which likely would have affected many women in Minnesota in the early 20th century after waves of immigration to the state — since it doesn’t seem to be possible to reverse its effects posthumously for those wronged.
In the early part of the last century, during the rush of European immigration to the United States, Congress stripped citizenship from any American woman who married a foreigner. The little-known Expatriation Act of 1907 stayed on the books until 1940, so even after women won the right to vote in 1920, those who were married to a non-American could not exercise that newfound right.
Franken would like the Senate to offer, through legislation, its sympathy and regret for passing a law “incompatible with and antithetical to the core principle that all persons, regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity, are created equal.”
Franken’s office first learned of this blemish in U.S. history from a constituent who was seeking posthumous citizenship for his grandmother. She lost hers when she married a Swedish man in 1914. Franken’s office couldn’t accomplish that, so is seeking an official apology as the next-best commendation.
Here is a summary of the relevant provisions from the Wikipedia page for the Expatriation Act of 1907:
Section 3 provided for loss of citizenship by American women who married foreigners. Section 4 provided for retention of American citizenship by formerly foreign women who had acquired citizenship by marriage to an American after the termination of their marriages. Women residing in the U.S. would retain their American citizenship automatically if they did not explicitly renounce; women residing abroad would have the option to retain American citizenship by registration with a U.S. consul. The aim of these provisions was to prevent cases of multiple nationality among women. Nevertheless, these resulted in significant protests by members of the women’s suffrage movement, and just two years after women gained the franchise these were repealed by the Cable Act of 1922. However, the Cable Act itself continued to provide for the loss of citizenship by American women who married “aliens ineligible to citizenship”, namely Asians.
The Supreme Court upheld these loss-of-citizenship provisions in 1915 (Mackenzie v. Hare) and said Congress could do whatever it wanted to native-born American citizens’ citizenship as long as it wasn’t arbitrary and there was a set of established rules that would result in loss of citizenship. Since the law clearly said that marrying a foreigner resulted in a loss of citizenship for a woman, the majority opinion held that women couldn’t complain if they married a foreigner and lost their citizenship as a result because it was “voluntarily entered into, with notice of consequences.”
Ugh. Props to Sen. Franken for trying to make things right.
I’m always really bothered by anti-immigration rhetoric and views. I have never understood that. There are quite a few things I’ve evolved/improved my views on, but I don’t remember a time in my life where I ever opposed immigration or easier paths to citizenship. I remember in 4th grade we spent a lot of time discussing genealogy and immigration, including a visit to an immigration-themed museum in Boston. And there were quite a few people in my class who were immigrants themselves and were hoping to become citizens and were still many years away from citizenship despite living here nearly their whole lives. That made no sense to me. I guess maybe that stuck with me. That year, my parents also took me and my sister to visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York — where we saw how cramped the Sephardic immigrants had been — as well as the museum at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The poem at the base has always resonated with me.
My parents both emphasized my multi-ethnic immigrant backgrounds although my mother is 4th generation American and my father is a classic New Englander with multiple Mayflower ancestors (in addition to an American Revolution-era Irish branch). Although my maternal grandfather has become pretty xenophobic and anti-immigrant, he and his extended family also all still identify very heavily with their grandparents’ Azorean Portuguese culture and celebrate that heritage each year. My dad — the old-school Yankee — may still not be as progressive as I would like on some other identity issues, but he certainly backed my 4th grade teacher’s pro-immigration lessons, even if he dismissed some of the other lessons as “politically correct nonsense” or whatever, at the time. That was definitely an influential year for me, and I don’t really remember the subject coming up very much before then.
Honestly, I just don’t know why folks would oppose immigration, generally speaking. It’s what made America the country it became, and it was a major source of our economic strength. It still is today, particularly when we compare our labor markets and entitlement program integrity to those of most of the other industrialized nations — but that’s often due to undocumented immigration resulting from onerous legal immigration paths and unreasonable quotas/caps. Ideally, I would support a much more flexible and welcoming immigration policy with very few limits and a much faster path to citizenship for everyone. Pragmatically, I generally support one of the many “comprehensive immigration reform” plans discussed in Washington over the past decade. I even wrote a summary of one such plan on my first campaign job, so the candidate would be prepared on the off-chance someone asked him what his views were on the subject. It was certainly more moderate than my own views, but I understand that it’s pretty unrealistic to assume we’re going to throw open the gates and welcome all the non-felons of the world with open arms — and it would probably have a deleterious effect on wages and the broader labor market if there were a sudden and uncontrolled, massive influx of immigrant labor of all skill levels after a long period of heavy restrictions. But in general, I see immigration as an economic and cultural positive, and I also (broadly) favor global and transnational integration of societies and the formal or informal elimination of borders wherever possible.
In any case, the knee-jerk reactions, the xenophobia, and the tired lies and exaggerations about immigrants — and particularly undocumented and lower-skilled immigrants always really get under my skin. How does it negatively affect you or any of us, really? We’re the melting pot and we always have been. Let’s keep putting stuff into the stew! We should be welcoming the cultural, economic, and other contributions to American society that immigrants have brought and continue to make, instead of dismissing and insulting them. I think vocal, bitter opposition to immigration says a lot more about the folks saying that stuff than it does about the people coming here.
“AFD Ep 37 – Immigration and Cyberwar”
Posted: Tues, 05 Feb 2013
Description: Bill and Sasha discuss recent unusual developments in Congressional races and then examine the push for immigration reform. Then Bill looks at the NY Times report on the new classified cyber warfare policy review from the Obama Administration, before updating us on the situation in Mali (and neighboring Niger).
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Posted: Tues, 29 Jan 2013
Description: Bill updates us on the Senate rules reform, discusses a strange Federal Appeals Court decision, talks to guest commentator Sasha about women in combat, covers a proposal to change the Electoral College to help Republicans, looks at protests in Egypt, discusses the tragic loss of the Timbuktu libraries this week, and previews the coming immigration reform battle in Congress.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download