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Schneider v. Rusk

Significance

The Court continued a trend of limiting when Congress could force naturalized Americans to involuntarily give up their citizenship.

The privileges of American citizenship have enticed millions of immigrants to come to the United States and adopt this country as their homeland. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" are American citizens, and Congress has the power to regulate naturalization, the process by which foreigners become citizens. The Constitution, however, does not spell out when people can be expatriated, or stripped of their citizenship. This issue has been left to the Supreme Court to decide.

For much of its history, the Court ruled that Americans could not voluntarily expatriate themselves, without the government's consent. But in the twentieth century, the Court recognized the right of Americans to freely renounce their citizenship. A thornier constitutional issue has been involuntary expatriation: when Congress declares that, after committing certain acts, people can be stripped of their citizenship. In Perez v. Brownell (1958), the Court ruled that by voting in a foreign election, citizens implicitly renounce their citizenship, and Congress can make that action grounds for expatriation.

At the same time, however, the Court ruled that a law expatriating a citizen who deserted the military during wartime was not constitutional (Trop v. Dulles [1958]). In Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez (1963), the Court held that a citizen who lived in a foreign country during wartime to avoid the draft could not be expatriated. A year later, the Court once again examined involuntary expatriation.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Schneider v. Rusk - Significance, No "second Class Citizenship" Allowed, The Historical Record For Residency