Putnam's Handy Law Book for the Layman

Citizen. - In modern usage this means a member of the body politic who owes allegiance to the nation and is entitled to public protection. One may be a citizen of the United States without being a citizen of any state, for example, a citizen of the District of Columbia, or the territory of Alaska. Citizen-ship implies the duty of allegiance to the government, and the right of protection from it. A citizen of the United States who resides in a state owes a double allegiance, and can demand protection from each government. For the ordinary rights of person and property he looks to the state for protection. The rights for which he can seek the protection of the United States are only such as are established by the constitution and federal laws. For some purposes even a corporation may be included within the term citizen, for example the right to sue in the federal courts as a citizen of the incorporating state.

By the fourteenth amendment of the federal constitution, all persons born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction are citizens of the United States. In 1855 Congress passed an act conferring citizenship on alien women who should marry American citizens. An American woman therefore who marries an alien takes the nationality of her husband. When her marital relation ends she may elect to retain her marital or her original citizenship. Since minor children follow the status of their parent, by the marriage of an alien widow to an American citizen, her children also become American citizens.

An alien may be naturalized. To do this he must have continuously resided in the United States for five years before his application, and he must have appeared in court at least two years before, and there declared his intention to become a citizen of [63]the United States and to renounce allegiance to his former sovereign. He must prove by the oath of at least two persons his residence, also during that time that he has behaved as a man of good moral character and attached to the principles of the federal constitution. He must take an oath to support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States and renounce allegiance to any foreign prince. The naturalization of a person confers citizenship on his minor children if dwelling in the United States, also on his wife, unless she is of a race incapable of American citizenship.

The rights of aliens, from the very beginning of the American government, have been expanded by treaty provisions and by liberal legislation. In nearly all the states resident aliens were given the right to take title to land, whether by deed or by inheritance, to hold such real estate and to transfer it by law or by descent. In some states they were given the right to vote and hold office. And at common law they were entitled to purchase, own and sell personal property, engage in business and to make contracts and wills. By the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution their rights and privileges have been further secured.

Aliens owe to the country in which they reside a temporary and limited allegiance, that is, an obligation to obey its laws and subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the courts. A non-resident alien is not within the terms of the fourteenth amendment, indeed it is doubtful if he can ask any aid or relief under the state or federal constitutions. A statute therefore imposing a higher inheritance tax on property passing to a non-resident alien than on his property if he resided here is valid. Non-resident aliens can acquire no rights incident to residence here except as permitted by the federal government. This power may be exercised, either through treaties made by the president and senate, or through statutes enacted by congress. So congress has excluded not only diseased, criminal, pauper and anarchist immigrants, but also contract and Chinese laborers.


Do It Yourself Legal Forms
Law for the Laymen - Citizen
Page Updated 10:32 PM Thursday 6/13/2013