Naturalized and Native-Born Citizens
posted by Gerard Magliocca
I’ve come across a curious case written by Justice Sutherland that may be of interest to immigration lawyers. Chung Fook v. White, 264 U.S. 443 (1924) involved a native-born American citizen who wife was a Chinese alien. She was denied entry to the United States because she was ill with some contagious disease (the opinion does not say what it was). The relevant statute said the following:
“That if the person sending for wife or minor child is naturalized, a wife to whom married or a minor child born subsequent to such husband or father’s naturalization shall be admitted without detention for treatment in hospital.”
Chung Fook argued that if the wife of a naturalized citizen could be admitted and get medical treatment, then surely he, as a native-born citizen, could do the same for his wife. The Court conceded that it was strange to say that a naturalized citizen possessed a right greater than a native-born citizen. Nevertheless, “naturalized” could not be read to mean “native-born.” What explains this? The answer is that immigration law at the time said that the wife of a native-born citizen was deemed a citizen for purposes of entry unless she was Chinese. That was the effect of a provision that said that only people who could be naturalized could be deemed constructive citizens. At this time, of course, Chinese aliens could not be naturalized.
Still, I think this is probably the only instance in our history where a native-born citizen was at a disadvantage to a naturalized one.