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Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Expatriation Act

At The Los Angeles Times, Richard Simon reports:
Daniel Swalm was researching his family when he came across a disturbing episode in immigration history. That discovery would lead to a move in the U.S. Senate to apologize for action the nation took more than a century ago.
Swalm discovered that under an obscure 1907 law, his grandmother Elsie, born and raised in Minnesota, was stripped of her U.S. citizenship after marrying an immigrant from Sweden.
Swalm had never heard of the Expatriation Act that required a U.S.-born woman who married a foreigner to "take the nationality of her husband."
The law, passed at a time of heightened anxiety over the growing numbers of "new immigrants" from eastern and southern Europe, came in response to a belief that U.S.-born women marrying foreigners were forsaking their allegiance to the United States, [UNC historian Candice] Bredbenner said.
"A citizen woman's marriage to a foreigner became vulnerable to interpretation as a brazenly un-American act," Bredbenner wrote in her book, "A Nationality of Her Own: Women, Citizenship and the Politics of Marriage."
At the time, magazines wrote about American women marrying European nobility in pursuit of titles. "For some Americans, a titled American was an affront to American ideals," Bredbenner wrote. But thousands who lost their citizenship were average women who lived in immigrant communities, she added in an interview.
After women pushed to win the right to vote — secured when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920 — Congress in 1922 acted to allow most, but not all, American-born women who married foreigners to be U.S. citizens. But those who married men ineligible for citizenship, such as Chinese immigrants, still forfeited their U.S. citizenship, until that restriction was later repealed.