Naturalization Act of 1870


President Ulysses S. Grant and the 41st United States Congress signed into law the Naturalization Act of 1870 on July 14, 1870. Of the seven sections of the act, much of it seemed to have very little to do with naturalization.

Section one determines a jail sentence of one to five years and a fine of one thousand dollars for people who commit perjury in anything related to the naturalization process.

Section two makes it a felony to apply for citizenship while impersonating another. Equally guilty is anyone who is a witness for this person. Also guilty is anyone associated with any type of forged or false document used in the naturalization or voter registration process. If convicted they are to be imprisoned at hard labor for one to five years and fined three hundred to one thousand dollars.

Section three establishes it to be a crime to fraudulently obtain citizenship papers and/or fraudulently represent yourself to be a United States citizen. It is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to one thousand dollars and imprisonment not to exceed two years.

Section four declares the authority of the 1870 Naturalization Act and the United States right to enforce it through the courts.

Section five has nothing to do with naturalization but, rather, establishes city population standards in order to appoint representatives from each political party to oversee voting procedures. Interfering with voting procedures is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.

Section 6 authorizes United States marshals to deputize as they see fit in order to keep the peace during Congressional elections.

Section 7 finally gets to the heart of the matter by declaring all aliens of African birth the right to apply for citizenship through the naturalization process as well as any African descendant. At this time in U.S. history, the only people eligible for citizenship through the naturalization process were free, white men and both genders of African peoples. As a woman, the gringa would then not like to hear the descendants of Africans bemoan their status in the eyes of the United States government because, as an ethnic group, they received official equality recognition long before any gringas did.

The following transcript of the Naturalization Act of 1870 can be found in Library of Congress records online at www.loc.gov. Although it makes for boring reading, following is a copy of that transcript for your convenience.

“July 14, 1870, CHAP. CCLIV. – An Act to amend the Naturalization Laws and to punish Crimes against the same, and for other Purposes.

 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That in all cases where any oath, affirmation, or affidavit shall be made or taken under or by virtue of any act or law relating to the naturalization of aliens, or in any proceedings under such acts or laws, and any person or persons taking or making such oath, affirmation, or affidavit, shall knowingly swear or affirm falsely, the same shall be deemed and taken to be perjury, and the person or persons guilty thereof shall upon conviction thereof be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years and not less than one year, and to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.

SEC. 2.  And be it further enacted, That if any person applying to be admitted a citizen, or appearing as a witness for any such person, shall knowingly personate any other person than himself, or falsely appear in the name of a deceased person, or in an assumed or fictitious name, or if any person shall falsely make, forge, or counterfeit any oath, affirmation, notice, affidavit, certificate, order, record, signature, or other instrument, paper, or proceeding required or authorized by any law or act relating to or providing for the naturalization of aliens; or shall utter, sell, dispose of, or use as true or genuine, or for any unlawful purpose, any false, forged, ante-dated, or counterfeit oath, affirmation, notice, certificate, order, record, signature, instrument, paper, or proceeding as aforesaid; or sell or dispose of to any person other than the person for whom it was originally issued, any certificate of citizenship, or certificate showing any person to be admitted a citizen; or if any person shall in any manner use for the purpose of registering as a voter, or as evidence of a right to vote, or otherwise, unlawfully, any order, certificate of citizenship, or certificate, judgment, or exemplification, showing such person to be admitted to be a citizen, whether heretofore or hereafter issued or made, knowing that such order of certificate, judgment, or exemplification has been unlawfully issued or made; or if any person shall unlawfully use, or attempt to use, any such order or certificate, issued to or in the name of any other person, or in a fictitious name, or the name of a deceased person; or use, or attempt to use, or aid, or assist, or participate in the use of  any certificate of citizenship, knowing the same to be forged, or counterfeit, or ante-dated, or knowing the same to have been procured by fraud, or otherwise unlawfully obtained; or if any person, and without lawful excuse, shall knowingly have or be possessed of any false, forged, ante-dated, or counterfeit certificate of citizenship, purporting to have been issued under the provisions of any law of the United States relating to naturalization, knowing such certificate to be false, forged, ante-dated, or counterfeit, with intent unlawfully to use the same; or if any person shall obtain, accept, or receive any certificate of citizenship known to such person to have been procured by fraud or by the use of any false name, or by means of any false statement made with intent to procure, or to aid in procuring, the issue of such certificate, or known to such person to be fraudulently altered or ante-dated; or if any person who has been or may be admitted to be a citizen shall, on oath or affirmation, or by affidavit, knowingly deny that he has been so admitted, with intent to evade or avoid any duty or liability imposed or required by law, every person so offending shall be deemed and adjudged guilty of felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to be imprisoned and kept at hard labor for a period not less than one year nor more than five years, or be fined in a sum not less than three hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or both such punishments may be imposed, in the discretion of the court. And every person who shall knowingly and intentionally aid or abet any person in the commission of any such felony, or attempt to do any act hereby made felony, or counsel, advise, or procure, or attempt to procure, the commission thereof, shall be liable to indictment and punishment in the same manner and to the same extent as the principal party guilty of such felony, and such person may be tried and convicted thereof without the previous conviction of such principal.

SEC. 3.  And be it further enacted, That any person who shall knowingly use any certificate of naturalization heretofore granted by any court, or which shall hereafter be granted, which has been, or shall be, procured through fraud or by false evidence, or has been or shall be issued by the clerk, or any other officer of the court without any appearance and hearing of the applicant in court and without lawful authority; and any person who shall falsely represent himself to be a citizen of the United States, without having been duly admitted to citizenship, for any fraudulent purpose whatever, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, in due course of law, shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not exceeding one thousand dollars, or be imprisoned not exceeding two years, either or both, in the discretion of the court taking cognizance of the same.

SEC. 4.  And be it further enacted, That the provisions of this act shall apply to all proceedings had or taken, or attempted to be had or taken, before any court in which any proceeding for naturalization shall be commenced, had, or taken, or attempted to be commenced; and the courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction of all offenses under the provisions of this act, in or before whatsoever court or tribunal the same shall have been committed.

SEC. 5.  And be it further enacted, That in any city having upwards of twenty thousand inhabitants, it shall be the duty of the judge of the circuit court of the United States for the circuit wherein said city shall be, upon the application of two citizens, to appoint in writing for each election district or voting precinct in said city, and to change or renew said appointment as occasion may require, from time to time, two citizens resident of the district or precinct, one from each political party, who, when so designated, shall be, and are hereby, authorized to attend at all times and places fixed for the registration of voters, who, being registered, would be entitled to vote for representatives in Congress, and at all times and places for holding elections of representatives in Congress, and for counting the votes cast at said elections, and to challenge any name proposed to be registered, and any vote offered, and to be present and witness throughout the counting of all votes, and to remain where the ballot-boxes are kept at all times after the polls are open until the votes are finally counted; and said persons and either of them shall have the right to affix their signature or his signature to said register for purposes of identification, and to attach thereto, or to the certificate of the number of votes cast, and [any] statement touching the truth or fairness thereof which they or he may ask to attach; and anyone who shall prevent any person so designated from doing any of the acts authorized as aforesaid, or who shall hinder or molest any such person in doing any of the said acts, or shall aid or abet in preventing hindering, or molesting any such person in respect of any such acts, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be punished by imprisonment not less than one year.

SEC. 6.  And be it further enacted, That in any city having upwards of twenty thousand inhabitants, it shall be lawful for the marshal of the United States for the district wherein said city shall be, to appoint as many special deputies as may be necessary to preserve order at any election at which representatives in Congress are to be chosen; and said deputies are hereby authorized to preserve order at such elections, and to arrest for any offence or breach of the peace committed in their view.

SEC. 7.  And be it further enacted, That the naturalization laws are hereby extended to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent.

Approved, July 14, 1870

 

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Open Letter To The Honourable Governor of the State of Texas, Greg Abbot


I am so disturbed by recent events in my home state of Texas, that I felt it warranted an additional blog post today. Below I have copied and pasted my e-mailed letter to the Governor of my state. This link, http://www.latintimes.com/texas-denies-birth-certificates-children-undocumented-immigrants-320139, will take you to the story that has motivated my actions.

I urge you to call or write your State Representatives and Senators. Notify your Governors. This is a gross violation of civil rights and racist at its very core. The victims are not the mothers. The victims are newborn babies who are legal U.S. citizens. No one should remain silent. Allowing such discrimination for one opens the door to allow worse discrimination for all.

“Dear Governor,

I’m sure you are aware of the civil suit filed in Austin last week by Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid on behalf of Mexican mothers who were denied birth certificates for their children who were born in the State of Texas, on U.S. soil. It is my fervent hope that Texas will comply with the 14th Amendment and give these children their birth certificates. These documents belong to these children who are legal U.S. citizens by way of the 14th Amendment. It is my hope that Texas will not enter into a racially prejudiced decision to deny such legal status to these children.

I ask you to consider why these Mexican mothers were singled out? According to current statistics, as of 2012 a significant number of undocumented aliens are also Asian, British, Canadian and European. I am certain some of these women have also given birth while in the U.S. Were their newborn U.S. citizen children denied birth certificates also? Also, if Texas hospitals argue denial of birth certificates due to lack of a valid Texas driver’s license, I then pose the following question: How many Texas mothers were under the age of 17, therefore disqualified to hold a valid Texas driver’s license, yet still received birth certificates for their newborn children?

I am deeply disappointed in my home state for being so blatant in its racist actions. I am deeply saddened that the State of Texas does not consider these newborn, United States citizens and Texans worthy of doing the right thing. I have heard many people complain about undocumented people violating the law in order to immigrate here, yet many of these same self-righteous finger-pointers will now support an illegal action. Hypocrites, all. Today, I am ashamed of Texas.

Sincerely,

Michelle Cardenas”

Governor Greg Abbott may be contacted via http://www.gov.texas.gov and selecting the “Contact” tab if you wish to send an email. Other contact information is:

Office of the Governor  (mailing address), P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas  78711-2428

.Office of the Governor (delivery address), State Insurance Building, 1100 San Jacinto, Austin, Texas  78701

Opinion Hotline (512) 463-1782

Fax (512) 463-1849

14th Amendment, Equal by Law, But Law Can’t ChangeThe Heart


July 9, 1868 the United States formally adopted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (www.ourdocuments.gov). This particular piece of legislation is considered to be the first Civil Rights legislation ever instituted by the United States and was in direct response to the social climate of Reconstruction after the Civil War ended in 1865. Considering all conditions of the naturalization of immigrants according to the Naturalization Act of 1802, the specific changes rendered by the Fourteenth Amendment are:

  • Section 1 declares that all persons born in the United States are citizens. This inclusive statement finally makes citizenship attainable for women and non-whites who are born on U.S. soil after the amendment is adopted. Such citizens enjoy equal liberty and protection. However, naturalization of immigrants is not amended so citizenship through naturalization is still exclusively for free, male, white immigrants.
  • Section 2 establishes the ratio of State Representatives with respect to population, making a point to exclude Native Americans from the population count. Phraseology also indicates that adult males who are considered criminal or involved in rebellion are not considered a part of the voting population.
  • Section 3 denies government office to people who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion or given aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States.
  • Section 4 establishes that lawful debt incurred by the United States shall not be questioned. United States assumes no financial responsibility for any act of insurrection or rebellion against the United States. The United States accepts no financial responsibility for the financial loss created by the emancipation of a slave.
  • Section 5 empowers the United States Congress to enforce through legislation the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

What was the social, political and economic climate of the United States leading up to the adoption of this legislation? The United States was in the midst of reconstruction, the Civil War having ended three years prior to the date of the Fourteenth Amendment’s approval. The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment resulted in thousands of people freed from slave status yet left to wonder what exactly that meant.

In the 1857 case, Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court ruled that American descendants of African slaves could not attain U.S. citizenship. Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment definitively overruled that Supreme Court decision. The Southern states vehemently opposed the Fourteenth Amendment and only ratified the amendment in order for their states to continue being represented in Congress. In the December 1, 1866 issue of Harper Weekly, editor George William Curtis responded to the resistance of the Southern States acceptance of the Fourteenth Amendment by posing this question, “After a tremendous struggle to overthrow a Government in which you fail, how can you be humiliated by accepting, as the condition of resuming a share in that Government, that it shall be upon equal terms with others?” The common social perception of the Fourteenth Amendment is that it established equality amongst all United States citizens regardless of race or gender (www.14thamendment.harpweek.com).

For the first time in the history of the United States, Congress had enacted citizenship legislation that was not motivated by deceptive exploitation, power or greed. The Fourteenth Amendment was the first step taken by America to create an equal society. By granting citizenship status to thousands of freed slaves who continued to live in the Southern states, a dramatic shift in power would be created in the House of Representatives where power was population-based. The Southern states would have the advantage. Knowing this, Congress still acted to grant citizenship to these Southern freed slaves and accept the political fall out. Considering the political implications it is then truly indicative that the U.S. Congress approached this legislation from a humanitarian perspective.

In the years immediately following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, there were several civil rights cases that were brought before the Supremem Court. The Supreme Court held that the amendment did not outlaw racial discrimination by private individuals or organizations, but, rather, was a “state action”. It would then seem that, although the United States can pass laws to create a nation that grants equal status to all citizens regardless of race, there is no law that can compel personal opinion. That would take the work of generations to bring about such social change. And, as the gringa  can see for herself within her own barrio, the work ain’t finished yet.

 

 

1802, Citizenship For Territory


Just four years after the 1798 Naturalization Act, United States legislators were once again scratching away at their parchments. The administration of Thomas Jefferson sought to repeal the Naturalization Act of 1798. He believed that under “the ordinary chances of human life, a denial of citizenship, under a residence of fourteen years, is a denial to a great proportion of those who ask it” (www.northamericanimmigration.org).  It seems Thomas Jefferson came to the same conclusion blogged by the gringa May 29, 2015, in my post titled “1798, Immigrant Until Death”. The naturalization process was designed to deny an immigrant an opportunity at citizenship by establishing residency periods that would fulfill the average immigrant’s natural life span, thus being denied citizenship by death.  In April 14, 1802, as recorded in the Library of Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America got together. It was out with the old, in with the new, the new conditions of citizenship, that is, with the 1802 Naturalization Act:

Section 1 stipulations

  • The immigrant shall declare an oath at a United States state or territorial court that three years prior to admission into the country it was the immigrant’s “bona fide” intention to become a citizen of the United States and that the immigrant renounces any prior allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign and must particularly name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign.
  • At the time of citizenship application, the immigrant shall declare an oath before a United States state or territorial court that the immigrant supports the Constitution of the United States and renounces all allegiance to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign of which the immigrant was previously subject to, and must specifically name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign. These proceedings shall be recorded by the clerk of the court.
  • Documentation must be provided to prove residency requirements have been met. The court cannot accept an oath as testamentary proof of meeting residency requirements. The act states “Provided that the oath of the applicant shall in no case be allowed to prove his residence”. Residency requirements are five years within the United States, one year within the particular state or territory of the court where citizenship proceedings are being held. In addition to documentation of residency requirements, the immigrant must also satisfy the court that the immigrant has “behaved as a man of good moral character attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same”
  • If the immigrant previously carried a hereditary title or was of foreign nobility, the immigrant must expressly renounce such title or order of nobility. Such renunciation shall be recorded in the court. No immigrant who was a native citizen or subject of any country or state at war with the United States at the time of citizenship application shall be admitted to be a citizen of the United States unless the immigrant met all other citizenship requirements and can prove residency began before January, 29, 1795, and had resided in the U.S. for at least two years, with the preceding year being in the state or territory of the court where citizenship application has been made. The immigrant must declare an oath supporting the United States Constitution and entirely renounce allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereign and specifically name the prince, potentate, state, or sovereign of prior allegiance. If the court is satisfied that during the term of two years the immigrant “behaved as a man of good moral character attached to the constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same”, the clerk shall record all and any immigrants who resided within the jurisdiction of the United States between January 29, 1795 and June 18, 1798, may, within two years after the passing of this act, be admitted to become a citizen without compliance to the first condition specified in Section 1.

Section 2 stipulations

  • In addition to Section 1 requirements, all free, white immigrants who arrive in the United States after the passing of this act must register and obtain certificates if they desire citizenship. Free, white immigrants 21 years of age or older must report to the clerk of the nearest court upon arrival into the United States. The report will determine the immigrant’s name, birthplace, age, nation of migration origin and intended place of settlement. The court clerk will record the report and issue to the immigrant a certificate with the seal of office for a fee of 50 cents (about the modern day equivalent of $11, according to http://www.davemanuel.com). If an immigrant is under the age of twenty-one years or is in service, the immigrant’s registration shall be made by the parent, guardian, master, or mistress.

Section 3 stipulates

  • Any immigrant naturalized by the authority of any court of the United States of common law jurisdiction, and such court having a seal and a clerk, that immigrant, having been naturalized, “shall enjoy… the same rights and privileges as if he had been naturalized in a district or circuit court of the United States”.

Section 4 stipulates

  • Children of persons naturalized under any of the laws of the United States or who previously became citizens under the laws of a particular state, and are under the age of twenty-one years when their parents became naturalized, and are currently residing in the United States shall be considered citizens of the United States. Children born outside of the United States are to be considered citizens of the United States provided that the father is a US citizen and has not been convicted of joining the army of Great Britain during the revolutionary war.

Section 5 stipulates:

  • All prior naturalization acts are repealed.

 Once again, the question must be asked. What did all of this mean to an immigrant in 1802? What conditions within the country motivated Congress to invest the time and effort to repeal past legislation and enact new naturalization law?

The most distinct change from the 1798 Naturalization Act requirements was the residency period. Residency requirements were reduced by about two-thirds of the previous time required. Court and document fees were also reduced from an overall total of $4.50 in 1798 to fifty cents in 1802. It was becoming a little easier to become a United States citizen provided you were a white male.  The race and gender requirements remained the same. Excluded from US citizenship were women and non-whites. However, the gringa is hopeful that the pendulum is beginning to swing in favor of the immigrant. Now that residency requirements actually make it possible to survive long enough to become a citizen, racial and gender equality issues could now become an issue to fight for.

Although there are many details, the 1802 Naturalization Act has streamlined, simplified, and economized the process of becoming a United States citizen. For an oath of intention and allegiance, renunciation of title, renunciation of allegiance to nation of origin, five years, and fifty cents, a free, white, male immigrant could become a United States citizen. The new law clarified citizenship status for immigrants who had been naturalized in any U.S. court other than a district or circuit court prior to this act. The new law established citizenship status of children born to fathers that were U.S. citizens regardless of where the child was born, except in cases of children fathered by men convicted of serving the British during the Revolutionary War. The Naturalization Act of 1802 made it possible for many new citizens to fill the ranks of the United States population records much more quickly. It would then seem the United States government saw population growth as a good thing in 1802.

By 1802 the United States had enjoyed nineteen years of recovery from the end of hostilities with Great Britain and establishing independence as a nation. The only military conflict the U.S. was involved in was the First Barbary War that commenced as a naval war in 1801. As reflected by the “Enabling Act of 1802”, the U.S. was preparing to enter into a period of geographical expansion (www.ohiohistorycentral.org). Continental expansion and the need for more settlers, rather than soldiers, was more than likely the motivation for relaxing naturalization standards. According to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (www.ourdocuments.gov), with regards to a U.S. territory, “whenever any of the said states shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such state shall be admitted by its delegates into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever”.  This ordinance established the requirement of a population of 60,000 before a territory could achieve state status. So, once again, please understand that the U.S. was not making things easier for the immigrant because of a humanitarian reason. There was a strategic national interest behind the 1802 Naturalization Act. The United States had a need for warm bodies to fill the population requirements in order to expand the nation’s borders. Expansion meant control of more natural resources. More natural resources meant greater national wealth. Once again, the U.S. is motivated by the most common motivators of all time, power and greed. A humanitarian viewpoint on immigration has yet to enter the mind of the typical American legislator. The gringa’s advice to the immigrants in the barrio, find a way to convince Congress there is a significant national benefit to immigration reform. In the United States legislature, money talks. Immigrants will get their immigration reform when the U.S. government realizes it will result in increased wealth and power for the nation.

 

1798, Immigrant Until Death


The 1740 Naturalization Act was normal operating procedure for creating a new nation. New nations need new laws, and lawmaking is a very complicated process. First, legislators have to become aware that there is a need for such action. If even one legislator takes up a cause to propose a new law, or repeal or amend an existing law, the next step is extensive research before the writing of an introductory bill can even begin. Once the bill is finally composed and introduced to Congress, lawmakers then have to reach a consensus in order for it to become the law of the land. Thus, any change in immigration policy is preceded by a significant event, whether social, political or economic, that would motivate lawmakers to invest such time and effort in order to bring about change. Therefore every immigration law reflects the motivating public sentiment, political benefit or economic incentive that was originally behind it.

On June 18, 1798, the Congress of the United States passed legislation that repealed the 1790 Naturalization Act.  Now, rather than have a simple immigration policy, the United States embarked on the path of detail, detail, detail, by creating a citizenship policy that had many more conditions.  The only requirements of the 1790 act were to (a) be white, (b) be “free”, (c) live in the United States for two years, and (d) live in a particular state for one year. The new legislation created a completely new path to citizenship with more documentation, fees, demands of much longer residency and the creation of a new waiting period. According to United States Congressional Records (www.memory.loc.gov), The United States 1798 Naturalization Act stipulated:

  • All white persons and aliens (except for foreign ministers, consuls, agents, their families & domestics) who continued to live within United States territory after arrival, and were at least 21 years old, were required to report to the clerk of the court that was within ten miles of the port or place in which they arrived in the United States and register as “free” immigrant arrivals (if the immigrant was younger, or a servant, they had to appear with a parent, guardian, master, or mistress)
  • Immigrant registration must be completed within 48 hours of arrival to United States territories
  • The immigrant must pay a fifty cent fee to the court for registering (fifty cents would be equivalent to about $10 today)
  • After registration, the immigrant is admitted into the United States with a 14 year period of residency required before application of citizenship can be made
  • After the 14 year residency is completed, the immigrant must make a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen and wait another four years
  • The application of intention to become a U.S. citizen must include proof to the court that the minimum 14 year residency has been fulfilled
  • The immigrant applicant cannot be a citizen or native of any state or country the U.S. is at war with
  • The immigrant applicant must pay a $2 fee (equivalent to about $40 today) to the court for the “abstract of such declaration” document to be filed and recorded with the court
  • After the immigrant applicant successfully fulfills all residency, waiting period and documentary proof requirements, United States citizenship is granted
  • Another $2 fee is paid to the court to file a certificate and record the court decree of the proceedings regarding the alien

What did all of this really mean to an immigrant in 1798? Why such a significant change in the period of time for residency? Why was a new waiting period of five years created? What happened in the eight years that transpired from the simple Naturalization Act of 1790 to this new, complicated process of 1798 that increased the residency period by 700%?

1790 census reports reflect a dramatic increase in immigration. Pre-1790 immigration numbers were 950,000. Post-1790 immigration numbers totaled 3,900,000. This is a bit more than a 400% increase. The following countries and ethnic and religious groups are representative of the new arrivals to the United States of America:  African, British, Scottish, Irish, German, Netherlands, Wales, France, Sweden,  and Jewish (www.wikipedia.org).

Passenger lists from ship manifests bound for the United States in the mid 1770s reflect an average age of 21 years for the typical immigrant arriving to the New World (www.olivetreegenealogy.com). According to the Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 131, 2004 lectures, “We know now that in 1798 life expectancy in Britain was around 40”. The website, Stokesfamily.org, confirms this finding by stating in reports that in the 1750’s the “average person would live to only 36.9 years of age”. If, then, the average immigrant arrived in the United States at the age of 21, by the time the residency and declaration waiting period requirements were fulfilled, this same immigrant would be approximately 39 years old. It would seem highly likely that death would then prevent many immigrants from ever becoming United States citizens.

Did the United States Congress design an immigration law that created a substandard class of people to be exploited for the benefit of the upper classes? Did this same law engender a false hope that inspired many people to immigrate to the United States never understanding the New World’s open arms received them as laborers who had no hope of ever having rights, representation and property? Did these immigrants truly perceive that this new law would probably mean they would die before ever achieving their dream of becoming an American? Does the dear reader see the same thing I see: the first step of a suspicious pattern in the United States where citizens of means and property exploit immigrants of all races and both genders in order to profit from their labor? Did the government of 1798 America intentionally design legislation to create the illusion of possible citizenship to hopeful immigrants when actually the design was to achieve national prosperity on the backs of an imported labor class who could never hope to change their lot in life, most likely dying before they gained the right to vote? If so, why would the United States do such a thing?

Although slavery was alive and well in the southern settlements, African enslavement was on its way out in New England by the 1780’s (www.wikipedia.org). This translated into a great need for cheap labor in the northern states. This economic need could then very well be the mitigating factor for a new Naturalization Act. The enslavement of the African was switched for a more politically correct form of enslavement. Create a labor class of immigrant who, without citizenship, has no rights, no vote, no property and no hope of ever having such until the day he dies. This was a very clever plan, indeed.

In a nutshell, the simple “whites only” Naturalization Act of 1790 is replaced in 1798 with a new “whites only” naturalization formula that prevents the likelihood that the people who comprised the immigrant labor class would ever have a voice and be represented in government through the power of casting ballots as legal citizen voters. It seems the Congress planned it this way. This gringa is very disappointed with her country. I can only hope there is a change in how the immigrant is perceived by the powerful and influential within the United States. As I observe the people of my barrio, their work ethic, their desire to have a better life than the one they left behind in their native country, and I see how they are affected by current immigration law, I’m not so sure that much has changed.

(photo by fincher.house.gov)

The Birth of America’s Immigration Policies


Trying to find out just what the current laws are regarding United States immigration has led me on a much convoluted path. I decided the only way to truly understand this mess was to go back to the very beginning, 1740. That’s where it all began. As a British colony, the first immigration law, The Naturalization Act of 1740, also known as The Plantation Act of 1740, was officially passed into law by the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1739 and received Royal Assent June 1, 1740 (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantation_Act_1740). We have to go back to the beginning because, just as a pearl takes its shape after layer upon layer of nacre has coated the original grain of sand, so our nation’s attitudes toward certain classes and ethnicities of people have been affected by layers of immigration law.  We cannot understand today if we are ignorant of yesterday.

The 1740 law enacted a rather simple, practical and economical process for the colonial immigrant to become a naturalized citizen of England. It granted citizenship to any foreign Protestant colonial immigrant to American colonies if the following condition was met: reside in any colony for seven years without an absence of longer than two months. The immigrant would then be considered a natural-born subject of the British Kingdom. The person was required to take a simple oath of allegiance, although exceptions were made for Quakers and Jews. The oath went something like this:  “I, (insert name), do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be Faithful and bear true Allegiance to his Majesty King George II. So help me God.”  To seal the deal there would be a profession of Christian faith and payment of two shillings, which, today would be a little more than six bucks (www.britishislesdna.com). A new British subject was created for seven years, six bucks, and a promise. And just look where we are today. Good grief.

Somewhere along the way the American colonists became unhappy with England’s immigration policy and in 1776 it became a formal matter of grievance against King George III, the successor of King George II, whose reign oversaw the passage of the Naturalization Act of 1740. This grievance was addressed in the Declaration of Independence: “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands” (www.HeinOnline.org). And thus the rebellion began.

Fourteen years later on March 26, 1790, the First Congress of the United States enacted the new country’s first naturalization law. The legislation’s criteria determined immigrants had to be “free white persons of good character”. Children born abroad were considered “natural born” United States citizens if the father was a U.S. resident (www.library.uwb.edu). This was the seed from which America’s current tangled mayhem of immigration policy has grown. The classification of free white person would exclude from citizenship any non-European Caucasian. Among the ethnic European Caucasian class, women, indentured servants, and slaves would also not be eligible for citizenship because they were not considered “free”. So, once one of the ol’ gringos decided he wanted to be a citizen he had to establish his good moral character. This was done by residing for two years within the United States and one year in one particular state. Then he could file a Petition for Naturalization with his local courthouse. When the court was convinced his character met the legal standard, he recited an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and, bing, bang, boom, he was an American citizen (www.sjusd.org). Once again, a simple path to citizenship. And this one didn’t even cost two shillings. It only cost a white guy his time. Now, I don’t know about you, but this gringa finds it puzzling that back in the late 1700’s a group of illegal aliens arrived on North America’s soil, performed hostile acts to forcefully wrest control of the land mass from existing indigenous peoples, then had the audacity to enact laws determining who lived free and equal in America. I mean, the nerve of some people!

The distinct difference between the British Naturalization act of 1740 and the United States Naturalization act of 1790 has to do with gender, social status and ethnicity. The British act allowed for any foreign Protestant to become a citizen with no distinction of gender, ethnicity or social status. Although it specified Protestant faith as a requirement, it also allowed for certain religious exceptions. The United States act, although free of any religious discrimination, instead chose to discriminate against all women, indentured servants, slaves and all races other than European Caucasian. It seems to me that the country the founding fathers of the United States envisioned was one that was owned and managed by the white men of property. All women and non-European Caucasian men were to become the labor class with no rights to property or even the right to vote. As a woman I most certainly do not like that plan. It’s very likely if this gringa had lived in 1790 America I would have run off from the settlement to join the natives. I think they treated their women better.

Where The Heck Is Immigration Reform?


Houston leads all other Texas cities in population with well over two million people sprawling over an area of almost 600 square miles.  According to Huffington Post’s March 5, 2012 article “Houston Surpasses New York And Los Angeles As The ‘Most Diverse In Nation‘” by Sara Gates, Houston enjoys a special ethnic based status among all other cities in the United States. At any time of day over 90 different languages and dialects can be heard chatting away within the city limits. According to 2010 census figures, gringos checked in at 51% of Houston’s population.  Although Houston’s Hispanic population was officially 44%, it was estimated that close to half a million illegal immigrants also live throughout the Houston area. With so many households not registered with the Census, it could easily be said that Hispanics actually enjoy a much larger slice of Houston’s population pie and could easily be the city’s predominant culture. The Greater Houston Partnership Research Department’s October 2014 report “Social, Economic and Demographic Characteristics of Metro Houston” includes a moderate growth scenario which predicts that by 2015, Hispanics will represent the largest share of Houston’s population and, by 2044 Hispanics will outnumber all other ethnic groups combined.  So, it seems that Houston’s ethnic communities continue to grow. With such tremendous growth of the Latin immigrant community, why are their voices not being heard? Where the heck is immigration reform?

I believe two reasons Houston’s Hispanic population is so large is geography and climate. Houston is often the first place an immigrant from Central or South America arrives at when they first cross the border. It’s simply convenient and economical to stay. For many of these immigrants, Houston’s subtropical climate is quite similar to what they left behind and it creates a comforting familiarity. My husband, for example, immigrated from the jungles of Peru. Houston was his first checkpoint in his new land. He did a brief stint in Georgia and Maryland but, after experiencing their winter season, he high-tailed it back to Houston where you can wear flip-flops and tank-tops in December.

Many immigrants come to the United States searching for the opportunity to build a better life. These immigrants also prefer to stay in Houston because it’s a hotbed of opportunity. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Houston consistently led the rest of the country in “total nonfarm employment” job growth from March 2010-March 2015. Many of these jobs are performed, on and off the books, by Houston’s Hispanic population. I believe if almost half a million undocumented people are contributing to Houston’s economic success, these people deserve the opportunity to become legitimate Houstonians. Immigration reform is long overdue.

It seems to this gringa that the task of trying to process the existent undocumented immigrant community is a job way too extensive for our already overburdened judicial system to take on.  That is one reason why I support amnesty.  Another reason is because I do not place all the blame of an undocumented person’s illegal status on the immigrant.  For decades Americans chose to turn a blind eye to immigrants that secretly crossed the border. The people of this country knew they were coming and made non-enforcement our country’s unofficial border policy at the Rio Grande. Suddenly, many in the United States not only want to change this unspoken policy, but they also want to demonize the undocumented workers that arrived here during a time when they were passively welcomed. Our country wanted to enjoy the fruits of low paid labor.  Our citizens wanted their landscapers, live-in nannies, and farm workers.  For decades U.S. citizens were willing to benefit from undocumented worker labor. Now, America, you refuse to play the game you started.  You want to take your ball and go home. The complicated repercussions of such a temper tantrum could very well be economically and socially disastrous.

The United States is just as much at fault for the current undocumented immigrant issue by creating a situation that enabled millions of undocumented workers to easily immigrate and build a new life. The country then needs to accept responsibility and stop crying foul. We should not rip families apart by keeping within our borders those who were born here and send the others back to their country of origin.  We do not need to create a vacuum of loss in our economy by suddenly disappearing profitable businesses and vital service industries that the community is interdependent upon.  We do not need to allow documented immigrants to point and wag their fingers and self-righteously proclaim, “If WE can do it the right way, so can you.” Stop that. It’s not helpful. As you pass judgment on this group of people you  are absolutely clueless of the conditions of their life journey and it does not solve the problem. We do not need to get on our defensive high horses and scream, “But they are taking our jobs!” We need to stop perpetrating this lie because the truth is most gringos and gringas believe they are too good for the job of busboy, housekeeper, landscaper or floor sweeper. The unspoken, politically incorrect truth is that most Caucasians simply refuse to apply for such jobs as tomato picker, fruit sorter, launderer, seamstress, nanny, busboy and gardener. The politically incorrect truth is that America has created a culture of entitlement and a corresponding population that believes those jobs are for the “illegals”.  Not only are immigrants not “stealing” anyone’s jobs, many of these people are true entrepreneurs creating their own jobs as well as jobs for others, hiring staff to work alongside them in their landscape business, housecleaning service or mobile taqueria.

Please be honest with yourself, America. Political correctness solves nothing because, although it may be a feel good/sound good message and doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, political correctness usually has nothing to do with the truth. It’s like when the esposa asks the esposo, “Does this make me look fat?”  And, yes, it most certainly does make her look fat but he knows better than to say the truth or there will be a rumble in the barrio. So, he diplomatically lies in order to spare her feelings, “No. What, are you crazy? You look great!”  And then she goes out and the whole familia starts gossiping about how Tia is probably pregnant. Look at how much weight she’s gained. See, political correctness is stupid. Without accepting and dealing with the real truth of issues, progress can never be accomplished. So, political correctness junkies, just stop it.

Our country is faced with the job of processing a vast population of undocumented workers. This presents a task so daunting that it would be another decade or two before the court system worked its way down the list to even begin processing immigrants who entered the United States under a new immigration policy today. I say the only reasonable solution is amnesty for those undocumented workers that are here now. Wipe the slate clean. Legalize the ones we have and start anew with a streamlined, simplified, affordable immigration policy that makes it possible for the impoverished immigrant to escape a hellish reality just as easily as a privileged immigrant who has the means to be college educated in America.  Our policy of rejecting the lowly has been proven wrong by the thousands upon thousands who have come here with nothing and have created their own opportunity and built their own version of the American dream. If you don’t believe me and need a strong dose of reality, I invite you to my barrio so you can see for yourself. Mi casa es su casa. The gringa will keep the café hot and the chicha morado cold while I wait for you!