Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

Chapter 1

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

OUT

UT OF THE ETERNAL LONGING and quest for freedom, the story

of this country has been written Millions from many far. away lands crossed strange oceans and came here to realize their dream of liberty. The dreams and visions that they realized in turn became a part of America.

The foreign born of yesterday and the foreign born of today present no new story. Both wrote chapters in the saga of America. Like the Pilgrim Fathers of old, many of the present-day immigrants fled their native lands to escape bitterness, intolerance, and oppression. Some brought to this country little except courage and hope. Others brought something more: precious skills and talents in science, music, art, and in other fields. Each of these made his contribution, building, renewing, and enriching this great Nation and making it the inspiration of liberty-loving and oppressed peoples everywhere.

The immigrants of today follow the same road to citizenship that was taken by our forefathers. Long ago · Congress established the judicial way as the road from foreign allegiance to United States citizenship. Through the portals of the courtroom pass the immigrants to receive this citizenship. Since 1790, when the first naturalization law was passed by Congress, naturalization has been a judicial procedure. Attention, therefore, focuses on the induction ceremony—the climax of the naturalization process which clothes a foreigner “with the privileges of a native citizen.” 2

Although the Constitution provided that Congress shall have the power “to establish an uniform rule of naturalization,” ? until 1906 aliens were admitted to citizenship largely in accordance with the wisdom and method of the individual judge. Both Federal and State courts were charged with responsibility for naturalizing new

1

a

[ocr errors]

2

* Act of March 26, 1790, 1 Stat. 103.

Boyd v. Thayer, 143 U. S. 162 (1892); 9 Op. Atty. Gen. 359 (1859). Art. 1, Section 8 (4).

citizens, but they were far from being uniform in their rulings and practices. For example, there was no uniform rule as to the number of witnesses required for each petitioner. Nor was there uniformity in record keeping. Even the type of naturalization document that the court issued depended somewhat upon the printer from whom the clerk of the court got his supplies.

Toward the end of the last century and in the early years of the present, aliens in great numbers were exploited for political and industrial purposes. Fraud was prevalent in many jurisdictions. Just preceding election, in many instances, aliens were “rounded up” and taken to the office of the clerk of the court or before a "political” judge. Thereupon, naturalization papers were made out. Many of the new citizens were “run through the hopper" for purely selfish considerations, either political or industrial. Nothing was said or done during the inducting process that stressed the value of citizenship, or its obligations. The Nation's greatest gift was bestowed with little or no dignity and with no recognition of what citizenship really meant. These shameful practices finally led to an investigation that resulted in the enactment of a basic naturalization law by Congress in 1906. Of special significance in this law was the provision that enabled the Federal Government to set up an executive bureau (The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, in the Department of Commerce and Labor, which has by merger and transfer now become the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Department of Justice) to administer and supervise the processes of naturalization.

Improvement in the entire naturalization process immediately followed. The vicious practice of “rushing” naturalization cases for political purposes was practically ended by the provision forbidding the naturalizing of any person or the issuance of any certificate of naturalization during the 30 days preceding a general election within the area of the court's jurisdiction. Having administrative control, the Immigration and Naturalization Service worked toward uniform standards for examinations and toward uniformity in forms and record keeping. The removal of selfish outside pressure and the improvement in procedures opened the way for a new spirit to permeate the process of naturalization.

Although the Act of 1906 established no educational standard for the petitioner, except that he be able to sign his name, speak the English language, and satisfy the court that he was "attached” to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, the courts almost uniformly held that the applicant for citizenship could not be "attached” to the principles of the Constitution if he did not know what the Constitution contained. Many of the courts also held that the applicant not only should understand the Constitution, but that he should have a knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, vitally related to it, and of the early history of the United States. This resulted in the development of a system of examining applicants for citizenship to determine their attitude toward our Government and their knowledge of the Constitution and history of our country.

On September 23, 1950, Congress legislatively affirmed these court rulings and made such knowledge a specific requisite for citizenship. In addition, applicants were required to demonstrate an ability to read and write, as well as speak words in ordinary usage in the English language, exceptions being made in the cases of persons over 50 years of age who had resided in the United States for more than 20 years. These provisions were substantially reenacted in the Immigration and Nationality Act which became effective December 24, 1952.*

In recent years there has been an increasing tendency to hold naturalizations in Federal courts rather than in State courts. Most petitions for naturalization now are heard in the Federal courts, whereas in earlier years most cases were handled in the State courts.

In the Federal courts, practically all the examinations of prospec. tive citizens are now made by the examiners of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. At the present time a high percentage of those recommended by the examiners are accepted without question by the courts. The appearance of witnesses for the petitioner at the final hearing is not now generally required either in the Federal or State courts. This elimination of witnesses from appearance in the courtroom, together with the court's acceptance of the report of the examiner without further examination of the petitioner,

*8 U. S. C. 1423.

gives the court more time for making naturalization an impressive occasion.

An increasing number of judges are subscribing to the theory that applicants should have a complete understanding of the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of citizenship before taking the oath of allegiance. This latter development marks the first definite step away from the routine court induction of the past toward a better and more inspirational process for the future.

Present naturalization procedure is, in some instances, still not in keeping with the significance and importance of the occasion. Partial responsibility for this failure lies in the fact that approxi. mately 800 courts exercise responsibility for naturalizing new citizens. Although each court determines the same qualifications for citizenship and administers the same oath by which the applicant forswears his previous allegiance and pledges his loyalty to the United States, courts frequently differ in practices and conditions under which they operate. In some instances, also, the court is highly local in nature and reflects the strengths or weaknesses of its particular locality or leadership.

Furthermore, many courts are handicapped by large naturalization classes, small courtrooms, and heavy calendars. To some, these conditions have been so discouraging that no attempt has been made to make the naturalization proceedings inspirational. Some applicants for citizenship, ushered into a crowded courtroom by court attendants in much the same manner as persons appearing before the court on criminal charges and inducted into citizenship between hearings in criminal cases, unfortunately, have felt as though they were criminals rather than potential citizens. The results have been bewilderment, disillusionment, and even relief when the trying experience is over, rather than inspiration.

In sharp contrast, other courts with classes just as large, courtrooms just as crowded, and calendars just as heavy have been challenged rather than dismayed by these conditions, and have given an emotional uplift to the awarding of the cloak of American citizenship. By their courtroom ceremonials, these courts have endeavored to interpret the meaning and the full significance of the

a

life being entered through naturalization. They have pointed out that our Government belongs to the people and that the people should share its responsibilities. They have stressed other obligations and responsibilities of the new citizen. They have expanded the process of oath-taking into an impressive ceremony that honors and dignifies American citizenship. In these efforts the courts have had support and assistance. Patriotic, educational, civic, and fraternal organizations, as well as individuals, have become interested and have contributed their services to make naturalization proceedings dignified and effective.

In addition to these efforts further steps on a much broader scale have been taken looking to the improvement of naturalization proceedings. In 1940 Congress passed a joint resolution substantially re-enacted by the 82d Congress which resolved:

Either at the time of the rendition of the decree of naturalization or at such other time as the judge may fix, the judge or someone designated by him shall address the newly naturalized citizens upon the form and genius of our Government and the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship; it being the intent and purpose of this section to enlist the aid of the judiciary, in cooperation with civil and educational authorities, and patriotic organi. zations in a continuous effort to dignify and emphasize the significance of citizenship.

Shortly after the passage by Congress of the 1940 resolution, the President of the United States issued a proclamation putting the resolution into effect.

Since 1940, similar Presidential proclamations have been issued annually. Thus, the legislative and executive branches of the national government have recognized the importance of dignifying the acquisition of citizenship.

In the late spring of 1942, Justice Justin Miller, of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, acting in an intermediary capacity for the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice and the Office of Education of the Federal Security Agency, wrote to Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone regarding certain proposals that might be helpful in carrying out the intent of the joint resolution. These proposals were: A

554 Stat. 178.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »