Asian American Law Journal
In 1862, Congress passed legislation granting foreigners serving in the U.S. military the right to expedited naturalization. Although driven by pragmatic concerns, "military naturalization" served as a powerful symbolic message: those willing to fight for the United States are worthy of its citizenship. At the same time, military naturalization conflicted with existing laws that limited naturalization to whites and blacks. In this Article, we analyze how courts weighed the competing ideologies of citizenship by examining court cases brought by Asian aliens seeking military naturalization between 1900 and 1952. Our research demonstrates the importance of instrumental and ideological pressures in shaping the legal understanding of U.S. citizenship, as well as the contradictions that emerged as the judiciary sought to bring coherence to conflicting legislative acts regarding naturalization. More significantly, we show how decisions made by the courts in defining the pertinent legal issues in military naturalization cases helped perpetuate racialized conceptions of citizenship.
Sohoni, Deenesh and Amin Vafa. 2010. “The Fight to be American: Military Naturalization and Asian Citizenship.” Asian American Law Journal. Vol. 17: 119-151.