U.S. Supreme Court ruling on revocation of citizenship Date:
Decided on May 29, 1967 Significance:
The Afroyim decision established that U.S. citizenship may not be revoked involuntarily for actions such as voting in a foreign country.
Beys Afroyim, a naturalized citizen from Poland, moved to Israel and voted in an Israeli election in 1951. When he attempted to renew his U.S. passport in 1960, the U.S. State Department refused his request, based on the Nationality Act of 1940, which stipulated that voting in a foreign election would result in a loss of citizenship. In an earlier decision, Perez v. Brownell (1958), the Supreme Court had upheld the law by a 5-4 vote. In a civil action against the secretary of state, nevertheless, Afroyim argued that the revocation of his citizenship was unconstitutional.
By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court agreed with Afroyim’s contention.Writing for the majority, Justice Hugo L. Black emphasized that the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was written in order to ensure that U.S. citizenship would be “permanent and secure.” The decision had the result of encouraging the right of U.S. citizens to hold dual citizenship. In Vance v. Terrazas (1980), the Court held that the intent to give up one’s citizenship must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, not simply inferred fromacts such as voting in a foreign country. According to the State Department, citizenship may be revoked for treason. In a few other cases, particularly Fedorenko v. United States (1981), the Court would uphold the government’s power to revoke citizenship if deception had been used in the naturalization process.
Thomas Tandy LewisFurther Reading
Starkey, Lauren. Becoming a U.S. Citizen: Understanding the Naturalization Process. New York: Kaplan, 2006.
Wernick, Allan. U.S. Immigration and Citizenship: Your Complete Guide. Roseville, Calif.: Prima, 2002.
See also: Citizenship; Dual citizenship; Fedorenko v. United States; Immigration law; Supreme Court, U.S.