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Immigration Daily October 15, 2003
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Editor's Comments

The History Of The Oath

We are very pleased to bring to our readers what may well be currently the most definitive history of the naturalization oath - the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. In "Lemon Pledge", Paul Donnelly, who served on the staff of the Jordan Commission, says "When the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform took up the Oath in 1997, it fell to me to research the history and form of the Oath itself. I was surprised that so far as I could tell, no one had ever written a history of the Oath. So I did to help the Commissioners determine if they wanted to recommend changing it." Mr. Donnelly's lengthy and fascinating article is jam-packed with gems like these:

  • It's an odd story, involving the rare collision of musty vocabulary, dusty grammar and high principle. The language of the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance is an obscure exercise which reveals much not only about U.S. history but also quite literally what it means to become an American.
  • The original 1790 law limited citizenship to "free, white persons", and simply required support for the Constitution (not including the as yet unratified Bill of Rights) and "an express renunciation of his or her title or order of nobility." In 1795, responding to concerns about immigration from new sources (sound familiar?), Congress enacted a requirement to specifically renounce allegiance to the particular sovereign or state to which the immigrant had formerly owed loyalty. (This requirement to be specific remained law until 1940 ...)
  • Likewise, as new immigrants came to the United States from countries other than Britain, the requirement to renounce prior "allegiance and fidelity" was also a test of the ability of newcomers to enhance and not undermine self-government, which did not exist at all in the German states and had gone violently awry in France, two sending nations whose immigrants were cited in making the 1795 changes. The primary purpose of the renunciation requirement was to instruct newcomers -- serfs, subjects and aristocrats alike -- that the U.S. Constitution allows no such distinctions.
  • While the 1790 law did not hold courts to many civic specifics for new citizens, it did require a racial one. In 1854, Norman Asing, a California businessman who was born in China, courageously demanded naturalization because of his faith in the history, form and principles of the U.S. government, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Nix, said the Federal court: the 1790 law limited naturalization to "free, white persons". Much like modern policy tolerates illegal aliens and promotes 'temporary' workers over the Ellis Island model with its direct connection between immigration and citizenship, the 19th century model allowed individuals like Asing to immigrate, but barred them from citizenship - entirely, even for those born here, until the 14th amendment and the 1883 Wong Kim Ark decision.
  • So over more than a dozen decades, the Oath was hammered out in a mutually reinforcing process between courts, the Congress, appointed Commissions - and experience, in what worked to provide meaning for the new citizens.
  • The traditional Oath then does two more paired phrases: "subject or citizen", which reminds us that the United States invented citizenship in a world full of subjects. The critical distinction is that a subject's rights come down from the sovereign; while the American purpose of government is to protect the rights of all with the powers granted it by citizens, the idea on which the United States was founded. (This is why dual and even multiple citizenship is lawful in the United States - it is "We, the People", not the government, that is sovereign.) ... So the real question within the question of revising the language of the Oath is dual citizenship. ... But dual citizenship conflicts directly with the words of the traditional Oath, and thus also with equal protection under the Constitution.
We commend Mr. Donnelly's scholarly article to our readers' attention. For the entire article, see here.


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Featured Article

Lemon Pledge
Paul Donnelly offers the most definitive history of the Oath of Naturalization made available so far.

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Immigration Law News

White House Wants To Increase Legal Immigration From Cuba
The White House announced initiatives dealing with Cuban immigration stating that these would, inter alia, "increase the number of new migrants admitted from Cuba through a safe, legal, and orderly process."

BIA Affirms Deportation Of Alleged Nazi Persecutor
The Department of Justice announced that the Board of Immigration Appeals has affirmed an order directing the deportation of a Gulfport, Florida, man to Lithuania for participating in the persecution of Jews in Nazi-occupied Vilnius, Lithuania during World War II.

BALCA Matter Discusses Cook For Pet Fish And Reptiles
In the Matter of Exotic Pet Foods, No. 2002-INA-91 (BALCA, Sep. 8, 2003), the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals said that the employer's bare assertion that a Cook, Aquatic Foods" making aquatic foods for pet fish and reptiles was a "specialized position" did not rebut the Local Job Service's determination that the position required only 30 days of experience.

Unusual Deportation Matter Heads For BIA Hearing
The Greenville News of Greenville, SC reports on an unusual deportation case which may set BIA precedent.

US-Mexico To Jump-Start Relations
The San Francisco Chronicle reports "U.S. President George W. Bush spoke with Mexican counterpart Vicente Fox on Friday and expressed a "strong interest" in warming recently chilled relations with his southern neighbor, Fox announced."

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Immigration Law Books
The successful practice of immigration law depends on having immigration statutes and regulations readily available. Immigration attorneys need look no further than Patel's complete reference library for their primary resource needs. Patel's library consists of (4) books: The Whole ACTINA (Annotated), 20/22/28 CFRPlus, 8 CFRPlus, and Patel's Citations of Administrative Decisions under Immigration and Nationality Laws. Each book contains a detailed topical index, is annotated and is updated annually to reflect the latest changes in regulations. These four books constitute an indispensable library of primary resource materials for any immigration practitioner. For more information or to purchase these books see here.

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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:
The Truman directive of December 1945 which appeared in your October 13, 2003 issue was an important milestone in the evolution of American refugee policy. The now notorious failure of the United States to respond adequately to the refugee crisis of the 1930s and World War II was accurately characterized by Vice-President Mondale as "a failure of civilization." Truman's directive did not have the effect the president intended. Only about 5,000 Displaced Persons were able to enter the country because of it. Realizing this in late 1946 he began the push for the first congressional refugee legislation, the controversial Displace Persons Acts of 1948 and 1950. Under the Displaced Persons Acts, for the first time, refugee immigration became a major factor in American immigration. The 400,000 immigrants admitted as refugees during fiscal years 1949 through 1952 represent nearly half of the 900,000 legal immigrants of those years. The best and fullest account of the Truman policies is in Leonard Dinnerstein. America and the Survivors of the Holocaust. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).

Roger Daniels, Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.

Dear Editor:
Regarding Name Withheld's letter, my advice is that you go to a walk-in or free clinic for immigration advice. You can probably call some non-profit organization or charity for a referral, or look on the INS/BCIS website for such listings in your location. If you can afford counseling, often a list of qualified immigration attorneys is available from the charitable legal services organizations. AILA also is a source for referrals. No one can properly counsel you without being able to ascertain all of the facts of your situation. If your spouse is "undocumented" and entered without inspection, even if you file a "one step" family petition and all the supporting documents, you are looking at his being "summoned" to the Embassy in the country he came from... and once there, being subject to the 10 year bar for unlawful presence. There are "waivers" (there are forms) and you produce supporting documentation with the waiver that you can file with your other papers. You have the burden to show prove your extreme hardship on yourself and the baby from the situation. Word of mouth has it that the waiver process, depending on where he is submitting it, can take over a year. Word of mouth has it that most waivers are granted. If your spouse has committed other immigration violations, you may need other waivers... or he may be inadmissible. That's where all the facts come in. You'll need all your identity official govt. documents gathered and photocopied to prepare... such as marriage, birth, divorce, child's birth, etc. Good Luck! I welcome other imm. attys. to comment on this USC's plight so we can all learn from the experience and perspective of others... and help someone. It is one of the most common situations you find with those seeking pro bono clinic counseling.

Imm. Atty.

An Important disclaimer! The information provided on this page is not legal advice. Transmission of this information is not intended to create, and receipt by you does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers must not act upon any information without first seeking advice from a qualified attorney. Send Correspondence and articles to Letters and articles may be edited and may be published and otherwise used in any medium. Opinions expressed in letters and articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

Editorial Advisory Board
Marc Ellis, Gary Endelman

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