views updated Jun 08 2018


Those who, under the Constitution and laws of the United States, or of a particular community or of a foreign country, owe allegiance and are entitled to the enjoyment of allcivil rightsthataccrueto those who qualify for that status.

Neither the United States nor a state is a citizen for purposes of diversity of citizen-ship, a phrase that is used in regard to the jurisdiction of the federal courts, which—under Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution—empowers those courts to hear and decide cases between citizens of different states. Municipalities and other local governments, however, are deemed to be citizens.

The term citizen in Article III of the Constitution, which established the federal judiciary, includes corporations; therefore, suits concerning corporations involve citizens for federal jurisdictional purposes. The term citizen, however, as defined by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, does not encompass either corporations or aliens. Neither corporations nor aliens receive the protection of the privileges and immunities Clauses of the fourteenth amendment and Article IV, as those clauses protect only citizens.

Aliens, however, are considered to be "persons" for the purposes of the due process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the 1982 case of Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 102 S. Ct. 2382, 72 L. Ed. 2d 786, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that even illegal aliens are "persons" within the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for purposes of public education. A corporation is also deemed to be a citizen for certain purposes. It is a citizen of the United States and of the state under whose laws it was organized. A particular state, commonly Delaware, is selected for incorporation because that state charges lower taxes and its laws favor businesses. Once the company incorporates in the designated state, it is a citizen of that state, but it can apply in any other state for authority to do business there.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution provides:" All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside…."The impor tant right of citizenship, whether for native-born or naturalized citizens, cannot be divested, whether as punishment for a crime or for any other reason, by the states or the federal government, including their agencies and officials (see also Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253, 87 S. Ct. 1660, 18 L. Ed. 2d 757 [1967]). American citizenship can be relinquished, but it cannot be taken away unless it was procured through fraud or any other unlawful action.

The Fourteenth Amendment, through the inclusion of the phrase "all persons," was specifically enacted in 1868 specifically to grant citizenship to former slaves. Since 1924, it has been judicially interpreted to include American Indians. U.S. citizenship does not divest an Indian of tribal citizenship but, rather, coexists with it.

The Fourteenth Amendment does not, however, make children who are born within the territory of the United States of foreign ambassadors, consuls, and military officers American citizens. Such children derive their citizenship from their parents.

Ordinarily, a person who is in a country other than the one of which he or she is a citizen owes to that country a type of "temporary allegiance," which essentially is a respect for the laws of the host country, although it is not as substantial as the loyalty demanded of citizens. It requires that an alien observe the laws of the country and, in some countries, even serve in the military; it ensures the protection of the alien by the laws of the country.

Ambassadors, consuls, and military officers, however, owe no allegiance to the foreign country where they are assigned, and their children are not "born within the allegiance" of a foreign country in which they serve.

Citizen of a State

The Fourteenth Amendment provides that American citizens are also citizens "of the state wherein they reside," but U.S. citizenship does not necessitate residence in a particular state.

Persons living abroad, for example, are citizens of the United States but not of any state.

One significant legal disadvantage exists for a person who is not a citizen of a state. The Constitution provides that federal courts can hear "Controversies … between Citizens of different States." The phrase "Citizens of different States" includes citizens of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and Guam. Puerto Rico is in the First Circuit, the Virgin Islands are in the Third Circuit, and Guam, Alaska, and Hawaii are in the Ninth Circuit. A person who is not a resident of a state or designated area, even if he or she is a U.S. citizen, cannot satisfy the diversity of citizenship requirement and therefore cannot bring an action under the Diversity Clause in a federal court.

American Citizenship

U.S. citizenship is attained either by birth or by naturalization, the legal procedure that a qualified person must satisfy in order to be accepted as a citizen.

Federal law provides that those who are born in any of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the former Panama Canal Zone, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and Guam are all native-born citizens, including the children of an American Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or any other tribal member.

Persons born in outlying possessions of the United States, such as Wake Island or Midway Island, and their children are called nationals. They owe allegiance to the United States and enjoy some rights. The term national denotes everyone who owes allegiance to the country, including citizens, but not every national possesses all of the rights of a citizen.

A person born beyond the geographical boundaries of the United States and its outlying possessions, of parents who are both U.S. citizens, is a national and a citizen of the United States at birth if one parent had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions prior to the birth of such person. If only one parent is a citizen and the other is a national—but not a citizen—the parent who is a citizen must have been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of the child in order for the child to be a national and a citizen of the United States at birth.

A person born out of wedlock in a foreign country acquires at birth American citizenship if the mother was a citizen at the time of such person's birth and had formerly been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year preceding the birth.

Derivative Citizenship

A child born in a foreign country can become a U.S. citizen if his or her parents become naturalized U.S. citizens. If the child is brought to the United States before becoming an adult, and the child's parents become citizens, then the child is entitled to claim U.S. citizenship when he or she becomes an adult. Although his or her birth certificate will still reflect a foreign-born status, a person in this situation can obtain a certificate of nationality by filing an application with the secretary of state.

Rights of U.S. Citizens

Everyone within the jurisdiction of the United States is protected by most of the guarantees and safeguards of the Constitution. A U.S. citizen traveling abroad retains the protection of the United States. If property of an individual is stolen while he or she is in a foreign country, the United States consul can lend him or her money to return to the United States. U.S. citizens, of course, must observe and obey the laws of other countries while they are visiting, but if a U.S. citizen is arrested, a representative from the U.S. ambassador's office can visit him or her and inform the foreign government that the treatment of the U.S. citizen will be scrutinized.

Unlike citizens of other countries, U.S. citizens are entitled to enter into, and to depart from, the United States, and to obtain a passport from the government. The passport certifies to foreign nations that its holder is entitled to all of the protection afforded by the U.S. government. The right to enter and leave the United States is so fundamental, however, that a citizen cannot be prevented from coming into the United States merely because he or she has no passport. Even if someone departs from the country without obtaining a passport, knowing that he or she should have done so, he or she must be permitted to enter upon returning if a birth certificate or expired passport is presented, or if the person takes an oath as to his or her citizenship.

However, the U.S. government can prohibit its citizens from traveling in designated countries

that are hostile to the U.S. and perilous to U.S. citizens. The passport of a person who ignores these restrictions can be revoked, and such a traveler can be denied protection by the government.

A naturalized citizen has all of the rights of a native-born U.S. citizen but one: He or she can never be president of the United States. Article II of the Constitution provides: "No person except a natural-born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President."

Obligations of Citizenship

The most fundamental duty of a citizen is to be loyal to the United States. Allegiance is not an unquestioning acceptance, but a general faith in the U.S. system. In times of national emergency, citizens can be required to defend the country, through military service or alternative service such as employment in a hospital.

Issues surrounding the duties of citizens often arise in the same context as the freedoms enjoyed by citizens of the United States. In one of his more famous speeches, The Duties of American Citizenship, President theodore roosevelt said, "It ought to be axiomatic in this country that every man must devote a reasonable share of his time to doing his duty in the Political life of the community. No man has the right to shirk his political duties under whatever plea of pleasure or business. …"

In the wake of the september 11th attacks in 2001, the case against one American citizen, John Philip Walker Lindh, demonstrated the attitude that the U.S. government takes against nationals who breach their duty of citizenship. Lindh, also known by the Islamic names Suleyman al-Faris and Abdul Hamid, as well as the nickname "the American Taliban," converted to Islam in 1997. After visiting such countries as Yemen and Pakistan to study Islam at various times from 1997 to 2000, Lindh began training with the terrorist organization al-Qaeda in 2001. Both before and after the terrorist attacks in September 2001, Lindh served the Taliban regime of Afghanistan in an ongoing conflict with the Northern Alliance in northeastern Afghanistan. Lindh was captured by Northern Alliance groups in November 2001. He was eventually turned over to the U.S. military, who returned him to the United States on January 23, 2002.

In the case of United States v. Lindh, 198 F. Supp. 2d 739 (E.D.Va. 2002), Lindh was indicted on ten criminal charges, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, contributing to and conspiring to contribute to al-Qaeda, and using and carrying firearms and other destructive devices during crimes of violence. Lindh pled guilty in July 2002 to a count of supplying services to the Taliban government and received a 20-year sentence.

Surrender of Citizenship

Unlike some nations, the United States permits expatriation, the voluntary relinquishment of one's citizenship. A U.S. citizen can lose his or her citizenship by declaring that he or she no longer wishes to be a citizen or to owe allegiance to the United States, or by performing a voluntary act that constitutes the surrender of citizenship, as prescribed by law.

The test of whether an abandonment of citizenship is voluntary depends on whether the person's acts were of his or her own choice and pertained to allegiance to the United States. If they were, federal law provides that one has intentionally and voluntarily surrendered his or her right to American citizenship.

A loss of citizenship can occur by serving in the military of another nation; serving as a public official in a foreign country that requires an oath of allegiance to that country; and attempting to overthrow the U.S. government, which is established by a conviction for the crime.

Conduct that might be construed as a renunciation of citizenship sometimes is insufficient to prove voluntary expatriation. If a person merely enjoys the benefits that are available in another country, the surrender of his or her U.S. citizenship is not necessarily established.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the power of Congress to specify conduct that constitutes expatriation, but the right to citizenship is so substantial that such actions must be closely related to a conspicuous movement of allegiance away from the United States. Although some courts have ruled that Congress never is empowered to deprive the native born of citizenship, this view is not in accordance with current law.

Conviction of a crime can result in a partial deprivation of rights of citizenship. Prior to the twentieth century under English and American common law, convicts actually lost their citizenship, which was known in some jurisdictions as civil death. Today, however, only some rights are divested, even if the applicable law is called "loss of citizenship."

A state is empowered to deny someone the right to vote after his or her conviction of a felony or an "infamous crime," such as bribery or perjury. This denial of a right of citizenship can remain in effect until the completion of the sentence, including periods of parole, or it might be permanent. A pardon from the president or a governor can restore such rights, however. Some statutes even authorize the courts to restore rights of citizenship upon proof of the rehabilitation of the former prisoner.

International Law

Questions concerning whether someone is a citizen of one country or another are generally resolved by treaty, a compact formed between two or more nations with respect to matters pertaining to the public welfare pursuant to principles of international law. One person might qualify for dual nationality, that is, citizenship in more than one nation, if he or she can satisfy the citizenship requirements of different countries.

International law also recognizes a rule labeled the "law of the flag," which determines the citizenship of persons born on ships. The rule is responsive to the citizenship laws of different nations and to treaties that are rewritten to fulfill new political conditions.

A child born of U.S. parents on a vessel anywhere in the world is a U.S. citizen. A child born in U.S. waters on a foreign ship is a citizen of that foreign nation when his or her parents are citizens of that country. If his or her parents are from a different country, provisions of treaty or international law apply. A child born on the high seas on a foreign vessel of parents from that same country assumes that country's citizenship and not the citizenship of his or her destination.

further readings

Aleinikoff, T. Alexander, and Douglas Klusmeyer, eds. 2001. Citizenship Today: Global Perspectives and Practices. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Doak, Robin. 2002. Citizenship. New York: Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers.

Lister, Ruth. 2003. Citizenship: Feminist Perspective. New York: New York Univ. Press.

Noorani, A.G. 2002. Citizens' Rights, Judges and State Accountability. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.


views updated May 11 2018

cit·i·zen / ˈsitizən; -sən/ (abbr.: cit.) • n. a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized: a Polish citizen. ∎  an inhabitant of a particular town or city: the citizens of Los Angeles.DERIVATIVES: cit·i·zen·ry / -rē/ n.cit·i·zen·ship / ship/ n.


views updated May 11 2018

citizen XIV. — AN. citezein, alt. of OF. citeain (mod. citoyen) :- Rom. *cīvitātānus, f. L. cīvitās, -āt- CITY.