Article I, Section 8, Clause 4:
[The Congress shall have Power . . .] To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States; . . .
Chief Justice Marshall early stated in dictum that
[a] naturalized citizen . . . becomes a member of the society, possessing all the rights of a native citizen, and standing, in the view of the Constitution, on the footing of a native. The Constitution does not authorize Congress to enlarge or abridge those rights. The simple power of the national legislature is, to prescribe a uniform rule of naturalization, and the exercise of this power exhausts it, so far as respects the individual. 1 A similar idea was expressed in Knauer v. United States. 2
Citizenship obtained through naturalization is not a second-class citizenship. . . . [It] carries with it the privilege of full participation in the affairs of our society, including the right to speak freely, to criticize officials and administrators, and to promote changes in our laws including the very Charter of our Government.
Despite these dicta, it is clear that particularly in the past but currently as well a naturalized citizen has been and is subject to requirements not imposed on native-born citizens. Thus, as we have noted above, a naturalized citizen is subject at any time to have his good faith in taking the oath of allegiance to the United States inquired into and to lose his citizenship if lack of such faith is shown in proper proceedings. 3 And the naturalized citizen within a year of his naturalization will join a questionable organization at his peril. 4 In Luria v. United States, 5 the Court sustained a statute making prima facie evidence of bad faith a naturalized citizen's assumption of residence in a foreign country within five years after the issuance of a certificate of naturalization. But in Schneider v. Rusk, 6 the Court voided a statute that provided that a naturalized citizen should lose his United States citizenship if following naturalization he resided continuously for three years in his former homeland.
We start, Justice Douglas wrote for the Court,
from the premise that the rights of citizenship of the native-born and of the naturalized person are of the same dignity and are coextensive. The only difference drawn by the Constitution is that only the 'natural born' citizen is eligible to be President. 7 The failure of the statute, the Court held, was that it impermissibly distinguished between native-born and naturalized citizens, denying the latter the equal protection of the laws. 8
This statute proceeds on the impermissible assumption that naturalized citizens as a class are less reliable and bear less allegiance to this country than do the native-born. This is an assumption that is impossible for us to make. . . . A native-born citizen is free to reside abroad indefinitely without suffering loss of citizenship. The discrimination aimed at naturalized citizens drastically limits their rights to live and work abroad in a way that other citizens may. It creates indeed a second-class citizenship. Living abroad, whether the citizen be naturalized or native-born, is no badge of lack of allegiance and in no way evidences a voluntary renunciation of nationality and allegiance. 9
The Schneider equal protection rationale was abandoned in the next case in which the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment forbade involuntary expatriation of naturalized persons. 10 But in Rogers v. Bellei, 11 the Court refused to extend this holding to persons statutorily naturalized at birth abroad because one of their parents was a citizen and similarly refused to apply Schneider. Thus, one who failed to honor a condition subsequent had his citizenship revoked.
Neither are we persuaded that a condition subsequent in this area impresses one with 'second-class citizenship.' That cliche is too handy and too easy, and, like most cliches, can be misleading. That the condition subsequent may be beneficial is apparent in the light of the conceded fact that citizenship was fully deniable. The proper emphasis is on what the statute permits him to gain from the possible starting point of noncitizenship, not on what he claims to lose from the possible starting point of full citizenship to which he has no constitutional right in the first place. His citizenship, while it lasts, although conditional, is not 'second-class.' 12
It is not clear where the progression of cases has left us in this area. Clearly, naturalized citizens are fully entitled to all the rights and privileges of those who are citizens because of their birth here. But it seems equally clear that with regard to retention of citizenship, naturalized citizens are not in the secure position of citizens born here. 13
On another point, the Court has held that, absent a treaty or statute to the contrary, a child born in the United States who is taken during minority to the country of his parents' origin, where his parents resume their former allegiance, does not thereby lose his American citizenship and that it is not necessary for him to make an election and return to the United States. 14 On still another point, it has been held that naturalization is so far retroactive as to validate an acquisition of land prior to naturalization as to which the alien was under a disability. 15