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Chapter 4 Entangled Nets: Immigration Control and the Law of Naturalization
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Chapter 4
Entangled Nets:
Immigration Control and the Law of Naturalization

The very best service we can render the world, and the largest contribution we can possibly make to the sum and total of human happiness, is to keep our country a land of improving standards of living, of cleaner moral perceptions, of more robust physical and mental health, and of finer ideals of government. We cannot do this if we are careless and indifferent about the elements which make up our composite citizenship.
—Eugene Black, member of U.S. House of Representatives, Congressional Record 65 (April 11, 1924)

The immigration law of the future should be wholly American, drawn by Americans, enforced by Americans for the benefit of America to-day and in the future.
—James J. Davis, Annual Report of the Secretary of Labor (1923)

When the Cable Act went into effect in 1922, a new legislative plan to curtail foreign immigration had been in operation for over a year.[1] Congress had designed the Immigration Act of 1921 (popularly known as the Quota Act) as a temporary measure and introduced it as a more "scientific" and comprehensive approach to immigration


control. The new law allowed Congress to spot-reduce immigration by placing greater restrictions on the annual admission of "new immigrants" from southern and eastern Europe than on "old immigrants" from western and northern Europe. By 1895, "new immigrants" constituted 57 percent of incoming aliens. By the first decade of the next century, that proportion had reached almost 72 percent.[2]

Legislation designed to stem immigration from certain countries had appeared in the last quarter of the 1800s with the construction of barriers to Chinese immigration. The addition of an Asiatic "barred zone" in 1917 had expanded the geographical compass of that restriction. At the same time, the addition of a long-debated literacy test to admissions requirements had entered the list of exclusionary factors, which already included race, criminality, moral turpitude, political radicalism, and medical infirmity.[3]

During its brief lifetime, the Quota Act of 1921 weathered harsh criticism for producing legal embarrassments for the Immigration Bureau, discriminating against certain ethnic groups, and inflicting hardship on thousands of families separated by its restrictive policies. The law also appeared to fuel the debate over the citizenship status of the American's nonresident wife. According to the statute, wives who were foreign citizens at the time of their marriage to Americans were "preference immigrants," a designation that suggested that the federal government did not recognize these women as derivative citizens before they resided in the United States. However, unless a woman's marriage


to an American appeared fraudulent or she fell into one of the excludable classes, immigration officials generally allowed her to join her husband in the United States.[4]

Although the passage of the Cable Act did not affect the citizenship status of alien women who had married citizens before September 22, 1922, nonresident foreign women who married citizens after that date were subject to the quota restrictions imposed by the Quota Act of 1921. This immigration statute made special admission allowances for these Americans' wives, as well as other select family members; Section 2 explicitly directed officials to extend quota preference to the wives, parents, siblings, minor children, and fiancees of American citizens, declarant aliens, and aliens who served in the U.S. military during the recent war.[5] As preference immigrants these individuals could leapfrog over other immigrants to the top of the quota list, but the identification of American and resident alien men's wives and fiancees as preference immigrants provoked some querulous responses from women's groups angered by the government's persistent discrimination against citizen women's spouses and marital expatriates. The new law extended special privileges to the foreign spouses of men but made it more difficult than before for the immigrating husband of a citizen woman to gain admission to the country and virtually barred some expatriate women from entering the United States for permanent residence.

As preference immigrants, however, citizens' wives were still quota immigrants, and immigration officials could regulate their entry closely if economic or other circumstances prompted a general tightening of admissions. The citizen's wife's ability to take advantage of her special admission benefits depended on the strength of her ties to her American husband. If she emigrated with her citizen husband or followed him to the United States, her chances of entering the country improved; but if immigration officials suspected that a wife's plans to remain with her husband after entry seemed uncertain, the possibility of her exclusion increased, especially if she was requesting permanent resi-


dent status. And if she subsequently separated from her American husband, the government could expel her as an alien "likely to become a public charge."[6]

Post-Cable marriages to citizens could still offer some immigration and naturalization privileges to women, but their enjoyment of these perquisites rested on their continued status as the legal, loyal wives of Americans. This brief report appearing in the New York Herald Tribune was one reminder of the tenuous hold women had on these privileges:


A new problem was put to the immigration authorities yesterday when a woman twenty-five years of age who left Europe the bride of an American citizen reached here on the Ile de France the widow of the citizen. Vincente Pozarsky, fifty years of age of Milwaukee died at sea Sunday morning. As the wife of a citizen Mrs. Pozarsky was entitled to admission to the United States, but the inspectors on the ship were uncertain as to her status. They sent her to Ellis Island, where the case will be heard today. Her husband went abroad last month for no other purpose than to marry and bring his bride to America.[7]

With the introduction of the quota system, immigration policy assumed a more pronounced bias against not only certain nationalities and races but also family structures presumed less stable economically or in other respects less compatible with the cultural and material interests of American society. In the 1920s a household headed by an employed male citizen or declarant alien was the most highly preferred domestic arrangement, and policymakers made families in this category the most favored recipients of immigration privileges. The federal government assumed married women were economically dependent on their husbands, and, consequently, a husband's rather than a wife's merits as an immigrant generally determined the immediate family's


chances of entering the country, avoiding deportation, and bringing other relatives to the United States.

Married women were more likely to follow or accompany rather than precede their husbands to the United States. Not only could the husband generally find more gainful employment once he entered the labor force, but the chances of both husband and wife entering the United States improved if he arrived first or brought his spouse with him. A large percentage of men, married or single, arrived in the United States unaccompanied by family, and the government considered it sound social policy to foster the reunion of this resident man with his absentee family. Despite the restrictions imposed by the quota law, the government encouraged these men to reestablish a stable home life in the United States—if they intended to stay—by offering special admission and naturalization arrangements to the wives and children of male declarant aliens or citizens. Resident male laborers' wives and minor children were unlikely competitors for most American men's jobs, a reality that partially explained the government's willingness to assist the admission of citizens' or declarants' wives.[8]

Congress had provided a new system for regulating immigration and had revoked the practice of marital naturalization, but the tough task of detailing the admissions policy governing citizens' immigrant wives came to rest with the Labor Department. The Immigration Bureau worked to develop a stable policy applicable to these cases, but the difficulty of the task forced a rather fitful approach to the problem. Less than a week after the Cable Act went into effect, the Bureau's central office was fielding questions about the impact of the new law on immigration regulations. Commissioner General of Immigration W. W. Husband responded with a circular letter to all inspectors-in-charge, suggesting that they advise citizens' wives who could not obtain visas to procure an affidavit explaining why this endorsement had been withheld. Depending on the reason for the denial, the visa requirement might be waived. If wives faced delays simply because their country's quota was full, they could still be paroled.[9]


Only months after promulgating this post-Cable policy, Assistant Commissioner General of Immigration I. F. Wixon notified immigration officials that the decision to admit quota wives who had been denied visas had robbed the Bureau of a measure of discretion it wished to preserve in cases involving citizens' relatives. The government would not assure American husbands that their wives would be able to rejoin them in the United States.[10] Nevertheless, the Immigration Bureau suffered some loss of control in its attempts to implement this revised policy when federal courts intervened on behalf of some excluded wives. These judicial reversals of its decisions sent the Bureau scrambling through another series of policy changes.[11]

A year after the Cable Act's enactment, the Labor Department and its agency were still struggling to establish a general admissions policy for citizens' wives. That spring the Labor Department had informed the Secretary of State that a citizen's foreign wife was indeed subject to the quota restrictions.[12] Yet when the commissioner general of immigration responded to an inquiry about citizens' wives later that year, he declared that "immediately upon an alien's receiving full citizenship, his wife may be admitted, after due inquiry, regardless of the Quota Law."[13] According to Acting Secretary of Labor Robe Carl White, his Department had felt pressured to breach the quota law in order to admit more citizens' wives: "As a matter of law, we may not admit her, but as a matter of fact, they all are admitted, because, thus far, no public


officer has been found able to stand up under the everlasting hammering of hundreds of public officers and millions of American citizens who are shocked beyond expression at the thought that the wife of an American citizen should be denied admission. They care not that the law prohibits it. The truth of the matter is, cases of this kind almost wreck the machinery of the immigration service."[14]

After passage of the first quota law, Congress continued to debate the possibility of expanding the nonquota categories to promote family reunification.[15] A majority of the members of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization supported upgrading certain categories of relatives to nonquota status. As one bill's promoter explained, the Committee recognized that the American people favored reducing the flow of immigration but "not without sympathy for the interests of resident aliens and citizens struggling to bring dependent relatives to the United States."[16]

The persistent demand to lower immigration levels and the deepening concern over quota-divided families produced immigration-reform bills ranging in intent from the repeal of the literacy test to the suspension of immigration. What emerged from this tangle of bills was the Immigration Act of May 26, 1924, also known as the Johnson-Reed or National Origins Act.[17] By continuing to categorize and rank immigrants by nation of origin, the new statute reconfirmed Congress's preference for those ethnic groups popularly believed to produce the most assimilable, law-abiding, and civic-minded residents. Those individuals deigned least desirable as permanent residents—that is, persons ineligible for American citizenship—were now inadmissible.[18] The Johnson


Reed Act did increase the number of relatives qualifying for nonquota entry but decreased the annual allotment of quota immigrants for several countries. Another now familiar pattern of discrimination also carried over to the new statute: the spouses of American women and American's wives did not receive equal consideration for admission. The Johnson-Reed Act advanced the resident citizen's immigrating wife to nonquota status. If her American husband was not yet a resident, however, she remained a preference immigrant—the government's subtle way of discouraging "new-seed" immigration. Congress did not entirely ignore the foreign husband of the American woman, but it did not grant him the nonquota status provided in the original draft of the bill. He could qualify as a preference immigrant, providing his petitioning resident wife was at least twenty-one years of age.[19] The new law offered nonresident expatriates married or once married to foreign men no protection from the quota snare. With the reduction in the size of the quotas and the ban on admitting persons ineligible for citizenship, many expatriate women found it more difficult than before or impossible to gain entry to the United States or permanent residence.

The new law reflected the federal government's unslackened commitment to immigration control and its concurrent desire to make admissions policies more responsive than they had been to the goal of family reunification. In negotiating a balance between these somewhat conflicting objectives, Congress devised preference quota and nonquota classifications that ranked immigrants not only by nationality and race but by family composition and circumstances. Immigrants' family connections to the United States increasingly affected their chances of gaining entry into the country. As immigration law became more restrictive, it exhibited a pronounced partiality not only for specific racial and ethnic groups but for particular family arrangements. Legislators presumed that certain factors contributed to a family's assimilation and economic stability, and those families possessing the highest sum of these factors had the best chances of uniting and remaining permanently in the United States. The family with a citizen or declarant hus-


band or father continued to enjoy most-favored-family status under the law, while households in which a wife or mother was the lone citizen or naturalization candidate received far less recognition. When grappling with the quota-related problems of immigrating families, the principal object of legislators' solicitude remained the married man forced to live without the comforts of family. As Representative Victor Berger of Wisconsin confidently announced, "All thinking people will agree that the wives and children of the immigrants we have permitted to come in will not be a disturbing element in our civilization." "On the contrary," he added, "if you do not encourage them to send for their families as soon as these immigrants have the necessary money, you help immorality; in fact you create it."[20] Secretary of Labor James Davis, an immigrant himself, agreed. "The man that can live in the bosom of his family is a better worker, a better citizen, [and] a better man."[21]

The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 did not silence those critical of the immigration law's impact on families. The new statute did add flexibility to the quota system, but it still offered limited if any relief to the thousands who waited years for their names to rise to the top of the quota list.[22] "Is the quota more sacred than the family?" asked the editors of the Interpreter, published by of the Foreign Language Information Bureau: "So unbelievable is the [quota] barrier, that often a husband or wife cannot be convinced that it exists. Suspicion destroys their confidence in each other. He cannot believe that his wife cannot come to America when he sends for her. He thinks her unfaithful. He stops sending money. Perhaps he contracts a bigamous marriage. The wife hears that an American citizen can send for his wife outside the quota.


Why does her husband not become a citizen? He has ceased to care for her."[23]

Even if a resident husband did successfully petition for his wife's visa, the 1924 law left intact the government's power to exclude or detain her at entry point. Although changes in the quota system improved many citizen and declarant husbands' chances of hastening their families' arrival in the United States, the Bureau of Immigration's authority to exclude any "undesirable" member of his family remained substantial. Marriage to an American man provided no absolute guarantee against deportation or exclusions.[24]

One of the most controversial cases involving the exclusion of a citizen's wife began when the United States consul in Berlin denied a visa application to the wife of American millionaire and war veteran John Ulrich. Apparently Anna Minna Venzke Ulrich had a criminal record, which included convictions for moral turpitude, larceny, and forgery; but she had not troubled German authorities for several years and had been a minor when charged with the offenses. Her American husband sought a writ of mandamus to compel the U.S. State Department to issue the visa, but a federal district court rejected the petition. The Court of Appeals also declined to act, declaring that Section 2 of the Johnson-Reed Act clearly gave consular officers discretion over the issuance of nonquota and quota visas. The U.S. Supreme Court then rejected Ulrich's petition for a writ of certiorari.

John Ulrich spent thousands of dollars publicizing the federal government's refusal to allow his wife into the United States. He dispatched his lawyer to the halls of the Capitol to buttonhole legislators and to take advantage of any benefit he might gain from having the Republican House majority leader as his Congressional representative. The millionaire's money, persistence, and influence eventually paid off. Not coincidentally, the provisions of the Immigration Act


of July 3, 1930, guaranteed Anna Ulrich's admission to the United States.[25]

If the letter of the law does not work in your favor, the spirit of the law might—or so Emilie Dorto, the wife of a naturalized American, discovered. She had arrived in the United States after the exhaustion of Italy's quota, but for reasons that are not clear from the court record immigration officials decided to release her on bail. Dorto was not married at the time, and her attorneys reportedly suggested that, under the circumstances, she should wed an American to shield herself from deportation. Following this advice, she found a man willing to come to her aid, but her impromptu marriage to a citizen was not speedy enough to free her from immigration officials. She had married one day after the Cable Act went into effect and thus remained a surplus quota immigrant.

The judges who heard Dorto's case preferred to focus on her husband's rights as a man and a citizen rather than on her deportable condition. Relying on Mackenzie v. Hare and Tinker v. Colwell, the latter a case in which the husband's right to his wife's companionship was described as a "property right," Judge Arthur Brown declared that the deportation of Emilie Dorto would violate her citizen husband's rights. Brown refused to use the Cable Act to justify her deportation, reasoning that Congress had not intended "to so enlarge the powers of administrative officers . . . as to deprive the American husband of the services of his lawful wife."[26] The federal government appealed the decision, but the judgment was affirmed. By the date of the appeal, Dorto's marriage had provided her with another buffer against deportation. Pregnant, she was now not only the wife of an American but the expectant mother of an American. The judges realized that she had


married to avoid deportation but were persuaded that the couple planned to remain together in what had begun as a marriage of convenience. Noting that "love, mutual affection, and a child have resulted from a union thus primarily motived," the court refused to sunder this family.[27] Although Dorto's case was unusual in some respects, her treatment as an American's immigrant wife was less irregular. Whether Emilie Dorto was by law a deportable alien could have been the exclusive question in this case, but the courts chose to direct their attention elsewhere to consider the impact of her expulsion on her American husband and the citizen she carried. Standing before the bench sans family, Dorto would have lost her battle against deportation, but as both the wife and expectant mother of citizens she had acquired a social value she could never possess as an unmarried alien woman.

Legislators' sympathy for the pain and inconvenience caused by family separation produced a steady parade of bills and a handful of new laws to amend portions of the Johnson-Reed Act. By 1928, the foreign wives of both citizens and declarants had improved chances of securing residency in the United States, with the major exception of racially excludable wives. Prior to the passage of the Cable and Johnson-Reed Acts, the Labor and State Departments had permitted Chinese wives of American citizens into the country despite the Chinese exclusion laws. As an Acting Secretary of Labor had explained in a letter to the Secretary of State in 1914, "Even women of full Chinese blood who are married to American citizens are regarded as admissible to the United States . . . if admissible under the provisions of the general immigration act, upon the theory that the husband . . . has a right to have his wife with him in the country of his citizenship, whatever her race may be."[28] The Cable Act, however, invited immigration officials to challenge this privileging of husbands and their rights. Technically, the Cable Act had no effect on the admission status of Chinese wives; these women never had access to U.S. citizenship through marriage. Yet, the Bureau used the Cable Act as a strip of statutory ground from which to launch an assault on the notion that a husband's credentials for residence and citizenship transferred fully to his alien wife.

The Chinese wives of Americans were not on the Johnson-Reed list


of nonquota immigrants, and it is unclear whether the law's architects anticipated the resulting exclusion of these women as persons ineligible for naturalization. Once again, it fell initially to the federal judiciary to grapple with the problem. In 1925, the Supreme Court heard two related cases involving the exclusion of Chinese wives whose husbands resided in the United States, but these judgments intensified rather than squelched criticism of the Johnson-Reed Act.

The steamship President Lincoln was en route from China to San Francisco when the Johnson-Reed Act went into effect on July 1, 1924. On board ship were thirty-five Chinese women married to either American citizens or Chinese merchants living in the United States. When the ship docked later that month, government officials informed the passengers that they were prohibited from landing by Section 13 of the new immigration statute, which excluded persons ineligible for citizenship. Apparently immigration officials were not certain they could exclude all thirty-five wives, and the women were detained at Angel Island to await word from the Secretary of Labor. Secretary James Davis then sustained the board of special inquiry's decision to exclude all the women.

At this time the Labor Department was smarting from a recent defeat in which a district judge in Massachusetts, James Arnold Lowell, had ordered the release of a citizen's Chinese wife who was being held for deportation. Lowell had concluded that the immigration commissioner's proceedings against the woman disturbed "settled law" permitting these women to live with their husbands in the United States.[29] The purpose of the Johnson-Reed Act was to regulate the movement of aliens in and out of the country, not reduce the rights of American citizens. The woman's ill-conceived deportation would only make her husband "discontented with his American citizenship" and "deprive him of the society of his wife, to which he is entitled by law."[30]

In the subsequent decision to admit the women of the President Lin-


coln, Judge Frank H. Kerrigan echoed the convictions of his Massachusetts colleague. He acknowledged that the general purpose of the law was to restrict immigration but believed this objective was "not thwarted, or its attainment even menaced, by the admission of the wife and children ineligible to citizenship of an American citizen."[31] Judges Lowell and Kerrigan both suggested that the importance of preserving family bonds and men's traditional marital entitlements should ultimately guide the disposition of such cases. The Labor Department appealed, determined to fight this "doctrine of family unity," which threatened to unravel many of its cases involving the exclusion or expulsion of a citizen's close kin.

The Supreme Court considered the cases of the merchants' wives and citizens' wives separately. In Cheung Sum Shee, the case involving the Chinese merchants' wives on the President Lincoln, the Labor Department argued that the notion of marital unity had "lost much of its force" since the Cable Act's passage and could no longer be used to defend inadmissible aliens' entry as residents' wives.[32] While Labor Department officials contended that the admission of the women from the President Lincoln would impair the integrity and execution of immigration policies, the State Department worried that detaining the women violated the treaty rights of Chinese merchants. The Department's solicitor, Charles Cheney Hyde, argued that Chinese merchants' treaty rights naturally extended to their wives and minor children.[33] The law should treat a wife, in his words, as "an integral part of the husband's sphere of activity." The merchants' wives thus had no independent standing before the law.

As one observer reported, "The United States as appellee was in the rather amusing position of having one executive Department on one side of the question, another on the other, and a third presenting the case neutrally."[34] This interdepartmental disagreement was inevitable,


given the contradictions knit into the country's immigration and nationality policies. One did not have to look beyond the conflicting provisions of the Cable Act for evidence of such inconsistency. The Cable Act declared that a woman's marital status would no longer interfere with her access to naturalization but then denied her citizenship because she had married a man ineligible for citizenship. In Cheung Sum Shee, the disagreement revolved around whether a Chinese wife was an independent immigrant or a satellite within her husband's "sphere of activity." Immigration law supported both conclusions, but the Supreme Court ruled that "by necessary implication" the wives of treaty merchants could be admitted with their husbands.[35]

The merchants'wives on the President Lincoln were able to move past vigilant immigration officials with the assistance of the law, the courts, and the State Department; but the Chinese wives of Americans who arrived on the same ship did not find equal support from either statute, judge, or other federal official. The State Department, which had intervened on behalf of the merchants' wives, had done so only because the Department believed the integrity of a treaty was at stake in that case. And, although Section 13 of the Johnson-Reed Act listed exceptions to the rule banning persons ineligible for naturalization from entering the country, the Chinese wife of a citizen was not one of them.[36] Counsel for the citizens' wives argued that their omission from Section 13's list of exceptions was "nothing but a slip," but the Supreme Court handily discarded this defense.[37] The Chinese wife of a citizen was simply "an alien departing from any place outside the United States destined for the United States," and as an alien she was ineligible for citizenship or permanent residency.[38]

Cheung Sum Shee and Chang Chan, the citizens' wives' cases, left critics of the Immigration Act of 1924 with much to feast on.[39] Ac-


cording to the Supreme Court, the law denied American citizens a spousal privilege granted to alien merchants and ministers. Although the Labor Department was relieved to see the Court set some limits on the arguments for family unity, as a public exhibition of the disjointed workings of the immigration laws the decision in Chang Chan was an embarrassment to the government.[40]

By upholding the Labor Secretary's exclusion order in this case the Supreme Court had implicitly acknowledged that immigration officials could treat a married woman as an independent immigrant unless the law instructed otherwise. There was no small irony in the Court's delivery of that message in this case. A married woman's legal status as dependent had often been the source of her subordination, but in this instance the Chinese women's status as citizens' wives was their remaining source of legal protection from the racist policies that demanded their permanent exclusion from the United States. The judicial declaration of their independence as immigrants destroyed that last defense.

In the few years preceding enactment of the 1924 act, the number of admissions of Chinese wives of American citizens had been rather insignificant numerically—fewer than four hundred annually. In fact, the thirty-five women who came to California on the President Lincoln in 1924 were still in the United States on bond when Congress produced a reform law six years later that annulled the Court's decision in Chang Chan .[41] The Secretary of Labor did not oppose the law's passage.[42] These facts suggest that the Labor Department's major concern in pursuing a court battle over the Chinese wives' admission was defending its discretionary authority over inadmissible aliens—a power that the above-mentioned Immigration Act of 1930 left virtually undisturbed. As the Labor Department's arguments in the cases of the Chinese wives illustrated, the Department was determined to contain the legal force of a doctrine that threatened to seriously interfere with its ability to exclude inadmissible aliens. Nothing in the Johnson-Reed Act could be identified as a "theory of unity of family doctrine," the De-


partment had insisted, despite that theory's warm reception in some courtrooms.[43]

Other resident aliens with absentee spouses did encounter difficulties when petitioning for naturalization as well as for the admission of their relatives. As it grew harder for some noncitizens to bring their relatives into the country, the advantages they acquired on their transition from alien to citizen became strong incentives for naturalization, as naturalization statistics in the 1920s revealed. According to the Secretary of Labor, in the five years following enactment of the Johnson-Reed Act Of 1924, the number of men petitioning for citizenship increased markedly. Naturalization petitions in 1925 surged to an estimated twenty-nine thousand; two years later, the number exceeded thirty-four thousand. Moreover, 75 percent of the citizens seeking visas for relatives had been recently naturalized. According to the commissioner general of immigration, many of these new Americans were married men who hoped to bring their families to the United States as nonquota immigrants.[44]

The Secretary of Labor admitted that some naturalization courts concerned about this trend were rejecting naturalization applicants if bringing a man's family to the United States seemed to be his main motivation for acquiring citizenship. Secretary Davis conceded that reunion with close kin was an admirable goal, but he felt it was "a matter of regret when American citizenship is sought for that reason alone."[45] Assistant Secretary Robe Carl White thought the situation more than merely regrettable and gave a conspiratorial cast to the situation. "No doubt, many aliens ask for naturalization with honest purposes, so far as their family abroad is concerned," he remarked, "but the bulk of them ask for it under those circumstances for the sole purpose of putring the immigration forces of America over a barrel." He instructed officials to challenge the naturalization of applicants suspected of such a scheme.[46] Consequently, some petitioners for naturalization discov-


ered that leaving their family behind, even for strictly economic reasons, could work against them in naturalization court.

Meanwhile, support for adding the husbands of American women to the class of nonquota immigrants showed signs of strengthening. While many members of Congress were eager to shield husband's rights against possible incursions by restrictive immigration laws, the legislative champions of wives' rights were fewer, but growing, in number. The lingering belief that a wife should not only be permitted to follow her husband but should follow her husband continued to make a married woman's establishment of a separate residence in the United States socially suspect; and her overlong estrangement from her spouse, unlike her male counterpart's separation from his wife, was presumed to be a self-inflicted predicament. Spousal reunification, as understood generally within the framework of immigration policy, meant that a wife moved to rejoin her husband, not the reverse. Finally, what was widely acknowledged to be one of men's basic rights—family companionship and the services of family members—seemed at best to be women's uninsured privilege.

Law and tradition still allowed the husband and father to determine his family's legal domicile, while economic realities and societal norms identified the husband as the family's primary breadwinner. Immigration officials were thus predisposed to assume that a man steadily employed in the United States would support his immigrating wife and children. The wage-earning wife, however, could not muster the same image of financial responsibility and stability. If a wife petitioned for her husband's admission, she had the difficult task of convincing immigration authorities that she could support a family single-handedly.

The sex-segregated job market guaranteed that the average wage-earning woman's income potential would be lower than that of her male counterpart, married or single. Immigration examiners had additional doubts about young wives' ability to maintain a steady income because the examiners assumed these women would soon become pregnant and retire, at least temporarily, from paid employment. Consequently, a woman petitioning for her spouse usually had to demonstrate that she would have access to other sources of income if she was unable to contribute to the household financially. Although the American consul or immigration official could demand similar proof from the male petitioner seeking his wife's admission, a married woman had to battle against the presumption that she was, and should properly be, economically dependent on her spouse. Law, custom, her comparatively weak


wage-earning power, and the growing unpopularity of imported male labor all aligned against the American woman pleading for her foreign spouse's admission to the United States.

By granting special quota exemptions to certain wives and minor children, the federal government had been able to reduce the problem of separated families while continuing to limit the admission of those aliens considered to be the greatest threat to the welfare of the American laborer: working-age men.[47] The reappearance after the Cable Act's enactment of a group of women who were the American wives of nonresident aliens, however, posed a new challenge to the framers of immigration policy. Lawmakers now felt pressured to abandon patriarchal rights in favor of equal rights by granting to citizen women the petitioning privileges then enjoyed by citizen and declarant men; and proposals to extend nonquota status to Americans' husbands appeared among the several immigration-reform bills introduced during the Sixty-ninth Congress.[48] Although these legislative attempts were unsuccessful, the Secretary of Labor and the commissioner general of immigration both openly endorsed such an amendment to the Johnson Reed Act.[49] Of the six bills introduced in the first session of the Sixty-ninth Congress to assist entry of Americans' relatives, two had promoted citizens' wives' admission, two aided aliens' wives and children, one offered the husbands of Americans quota-exempt status, and another made the same allowance for the admission of wives and children of noncitizen ministers and professors living in the United States prior to July 1, 1924. Only the last bill survived to become the Immigration Act of July 3, 1926.[50]

Equal rights proponents did secure a victory when President Calvin


Coolidge signed the Copeland-Jenkins bill on May 29, 1928.[51] This new statute provided that an unmarried woman who lost her citizenship by reason of marriage to an alien before the Cable Act's passage could apply for a nonquota visa. In addition, the noncitizen man who had married an American before June 1, 1928, entered the country as a nonquota immigrant.[52] Congress had once again acquiesced to reformers demands but moved ahead at a halting pace. The new law set clear limits on the scope of the relief granted to citizen women and their foreign husbands. Only single women expatriated through former marriages could apply for nonquota visas; and an American woman marrying an alien after June 1 still could not petition for her husband's quota-exempt admission to the country. As the Copeland-Jenkins Act demonstrated, Congress remained reluctant to admit a "chain" of relatives unless their strongest link to the United States was a resident man. From the government's perspective, resident women's immigrating family members were "new-seed" immigrants who had yet to establish firm roots in the United States.

Woman's rights groups were a major force behind this legislation. The members of the WJCC, especially the influential NLWV, now actively sought the erasure of legal limitations on married women's ability to return to the United States with citizenship intact after living abroad with a foreign husband. At the same time, the Legal Research Committee of the NWP, had rapidly gained an impressive knowledge of the various immigration and nationality rules and procedures affecting married women. By the end of the decade, constant lobbying by these women's groups had yielded lower admission barriers for the husbands of citizens.


Although interested women's organizations were committed to pressing ahead toward the achievement of equal nationality rights and immigration privileges for women, some members of Congress hoped the passage of the 1928 Copeland-Jenkins Act would mark a plateau in quota-immigration reform activity. According to Albert Johnson, chair of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, this statute had finally "silenc[ed] the contentions of those who criticized the immigration act of 1924 on account of the division of alien families." And Johnson's admiration for the law only grew stouter. A year later he declared that the new immigration policies worked "splendidly" and relieved "innumerable cases of hardship." The virtue of the amended 1924 law was its ability to aid divided families without jeopardizing restrictionist goals.[53] It is doubtful, however, that the resident women still separated from their husbands by the country's immigration laws shared Johnson's enthusiasm for the efficacy of the law.

The Quota Act Of 1921 and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 had also complicated marital expatriates' ability to return to the United States, establish permanent residence, and regain their citizenship. Aside from excepting those women no longer married to aliens, the Copeland-Jenkins Act left this situation unaltered. As the number of immigrants allowed into the country diminished, so did women's chances of returning to the United States to reclaim a citizenship lost by marriage. The Cable Act required American women married to noncitizens and foreign women married to citizens to live in the United States for one year before applying for naturalization papers, but many expatriate women seeking permanent admission to the country faced exclusion or long delays because their adopted nation's quota was exhausted. Because Congress had designed the Cable Act to benefit resident women, its naturalization provisions remained inaccessible to nonresident expatriates or citizens' alien wives until they gained entry to the United States.

The hearings and reports on the original Cable bill had suggested that Congress did not carefully weigh the impact of existing immigration laws and regulations on the bill's repatriation provisions. The Secretary of Labor had predicted the difficidties that would plague the law (and his Department) once it took effect, but he was circumspect in his criticism for partisan reasons.[54] Woman's rights groups also had reason


to stifle their concern about the bill's limitations until it became law; but shortly after the Cable Act's implementation, women's organizations began urging Congress to grant nonquota immigrant status to all marital expatriates and the husbands of American women.

Immigration regulations and the Cable Act worked together to thwart many nonresident women's repatriation. The Cable Act had repealed the provision in the Expatriation Act of 1907 that allowed nonresident marital expatriates to reclaim their U.S. citizenship at the termination of their marriages by simply registering with an American consul or returning to the United States. The Cable rules complicated this process by requiring these women to live in the country one year and to submit to a naturalization examination in order to restore their U.S. citizenship. Although some women tried to skirt the quota system by entering the country as visiting aliens and then applying for citizenship after living in the United States for a year, their efforts were futile. Only persons admitted for permanent entry could file naturalization petitions.[55]

The Cable Act held out the promise of restoring American citizenship to the thousands of women who had been expatriated for their "un-American" marriages, but immigration laws often frustrated attempts to recover that lost citizenship. The Cable Act's preamble boldly proclaimed that "the right of any woman to become a naturalized citizen of the United States shall not be denied or abridged because of her sex or because she is a married woman."[56] Yet, some of the law's most critical provisions blatantly contradicted that promise.

Even if marital expatriates cleared all the hurdles inhibiting their repatriation, they could not find real security in their status as citizens. All women repatriated under the Cable rules became naturalized citizens, regardless of their country of birth. A native-born woman did not recover her original legal status as a birth citizen because the federal government wanted to retain the opportunity to revoke her citizenship papers. Consequently, resident women who regained their citizenship under the Cable Act never fully escaped the threat of denaturalization or, worse, deportation. Section 3 of the Cable Act of 1922 also


declared that "any woman citizen who marries an alien ineligible to citizenship shall cease to be a citizen of the United States."[57] This restriction mocked the spirit and letter of the statute's preamble.[58] When the courts issued one of their desultory pronouncements on racial disqualifications for citizenship, immigration officials notified the naturalized Americans affected by the decision that their "fraudulent" citizenship papers were revoked. Immediate family members could also lose their citizenship in these cases. A child naturalized through a father lost her or his citizenship upon revocation of that parent's citizenship; and Section 3 declared that women married to men ineligible for naturalization could not become or remain U.S. citizens. In these cases, the women could not apply or reapply for citizenship for the duration of their marriages or, in some cases, ever. In declaring that these wives must assume their husbands' state of alienage, Section 3 lent a rather satiric tone to the law formally titled the Married Women's Independent Citizenship Act.

The case of Mary Das illustrated the plight of women denationalized or denaturalized by their husbands' loss of citizenship. Das, a native-born American, had married a naturalized citizen in 1914. Her husband subsequently lost his citizenship when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Hindus were racially ineligible for citizenship. After denying her request for a passport, a State Department official advised Mary Das to divorce her husband in order to regain her citizenship; her only other option was to remain stateless until some other country was willing to receive her as a naturalized citizen. "Has the American Government fallen to such a state of degradation that to it the civil rights of its citizens have less value than property rights?" she wrote despairingly in 1926.[59] The Cable Act had not just taken away Mary Das's U.S. citizenship—it had made her a woman without a country Her situation was


a troubling reminder of Cable s imperfections. As one contributor to the Woman Citizen bluntly declared, the only thing that law offered Mary Das was the "hope of widowhood."[6O]

Das's situation was nightmarish, but it was not as desperate as the fate of some women expatriated by marriages to so-called ineligibles. As a white woman, Das could apply for naturalization if her marriage ended; for other women, their loss of citizenship was irreversible. For example, Fung Sing was a native-born American, but when she wed a Chinese man in 1920, she was unaware that she had irretrievably lost her citizenship. Five years later, when she attempted to return to the United States, the remaining provisions of Expatriation Act of 1907, the Cable Act, and the Johnson-Reed Act all worked against her reentry into her native country: the Expatriation Act stripped her of her citizenship; the Cable Act declared her an expatriate ineligible for repatriation; and the Johnson-Reed Act barred her from the United States as an alien racially ineligible for naturalization.[61]

Factors other than a spouse's race could cause the expatriation of a married woman, render her ineligible for naturalization, or both. If a man withdrew his declaration of intention to become an American citizen in order to avoid military service, for example, he could not later reapply for naturalization. Likewise, since 1865, desertion from the armed forces when the country was at war also brought permanent forfeiture of citizenship and naturalization privileges.[62] Cases involving a husband's postnuptial loss of citizenship provided a point of debate that the Cable Act reagitated. Could the government presume that a wife had consented to the forfeiture of her citizenship when her husband committed a unilateral act of expatriation? In the absence of any clear legislative declaration of married women's right to remain citizens if their husbands became ineligible for citizenship after marriage, the courts fell back on the pre-Cable rule that a wife's citizenship—for better or for worse—followed her husband's.

Rose Schar's husband had been permanently barred from U.S. citizenship after he withdrew his first papers to avoid military duty during World War I. (He was a citizen of a neutral country.) Schar had


thus unexpectedly lost her citizenship after she married, but now sought repatriation under the new Cable Act rules. The government informed her, however, that her husband's actions had rendered her equally ineligible for naturalization. Anna Panoner found herself in similar straits. Her citizen husband had been convicted of espionage after their marriage. Although President Warren G. Harding had commuted his prison sentence, he did not receive a full pardon and lost his citizenship as a result of the conviction. Anna feared that Section 3 of the Cable Act had denaturalized her for her husband's conduct. In the absence of any court ruling or statute qualifying Section 3's mandate, Panoner's fears were well-founded.[63]

In 1926 some members of the NWP asked Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Jr., of Wisconsin and Representative Robert Bacon of New York to introduce bills allowing a woman to petition for naturalization despite her husband's ineligibility for citizenship.[64] Emma Wold of the NWP's Legislative Committee began to collect information on women denationalized for marriages to Chinese or Japanese men for presentation at House and Senate hearings on the bills. Wold chanced provoking some shrill commentary from Committee members, and even if calmer draughts prevailed, the bills could face dismissal as special legislation for a small group of women. There is some evidence that Wold found many of her cohorts in reform reluctant to contribute time or encouragement to her task.[65] The other provision in the bills, simplifying the


repatriation process for all marital expatriates, was then more appealing to the general body of nationality-rights reformers.

The Senate and House Committee hearings on the proposals were not substantially different, although Maud Wood Park's appearance before the House Committee suggested some degree of cooperation between the NWP and the NLWV on this piece of legislation. The House Committee's comments on the bill were often sharp-edged and delivered by a handful of vocal members who reserved little compassion for the woman who had made her match with a man ineligible for citizenship. When Wold pleaded for the women thus denationalized by marriage, Representative Arthur Free of California demanded to know whether the bill was really about "getting back these few women who married persons ineligible to citizenship." "Is that what the fuss is all about?" he sputtered.[66]

When Wold shifted attention to the less controversial yet critical problems still facing nonresident marital expatriates, her presentation was disrupted again, this time by sarcastic comments from Samuel Dickstein of New York. These women's difficulties were due punishment for foolish marriages, he retorted. After all, there had been "enough Americans for them to select from." Chairman Albert Johnson agreed with Dickstein: the decision to live in a foreign land with a foreign man was a declaration of expatriation.[67] Representative Adolph Sabath of Illinois dusted off the old image of the American-born heiresses who left the United States in delusional pursuit of "the little glory, the temporary glory that they attain by that sort of marriage."[68] Park's assurances that she personally supported a stricter naturalization process for some noncitizens was not enough to calm the tempest.[69]

Wold was disgusted by the proceedings and immediately conveyed her displeasure to Alva Belmont, the NWP's most generous but demanding benefactor. Her recent dealings with the "muddle-headed men" in Congress, Wold reported, had left her firmly convinced that an equal rights amendment to the Constitution was "all the more desir-


able."[70] She then drafted a circular letter to all state chairs of the NWP and its National Council, urging them to educate Congress about the problems confronting women in transnational marriages. Her report on the recent hearing appeared in the NWP's Equal Rights:

Before a committee, some of whom are of alien birth or of so recent foreign ancestry that their speech betrays them, members of the National Woman's Party asked for justice to American-born women who have lost their American citizenship by marriage, asking only that the character of women's citizenship shall be the same as men's. No red-blooded American woman present could smother every particle of indignation, however Christian and tolerant her spirit. It was not only the markedly hostile attitude of the chairman of the Committee—one has come to expect that of a man whose bark may be worse than his bite. The sneer with which Representative Free of California inquired what all this "fuss" was about, . . . the insulting assumption that citizenship to a woman means no more than a garment to be donned and doffed. . .—these coming from a committee, some of whom, at least, scarcely know the law about which the "fuss" was made.[71]

Chairman Johnson conveyed his surprise at Wold's withering portrayal of his and his colleagues' conduct and suggested that she "mistook the strain under which the Committee has been working of late, on account of pressure of time and multitudes of bills, for hostility." The Committee's published report on the bill did offer some compensation for its behavior; it contained a brief but unqualified endorsement of the bill's provisions. However, the proposals were not palatable enough to pass unchecked through both houses of Congress.[72]

For most nonresident women seeking repatriation under the Cable Act, their first and often greatest challenge in their journey back to citizenship was gaining admission to the United States. The quota laws made compliance with the Cable Act's repatriation rules difficult if not impossible for most nonresident women emigrating from quota countries.[73] They had to arrive as immigrants because, technically, only per-


sons admitted for permanent entry were classified as immigrants, and, with few exceptions, naturalization officials rejected petitions from individuals who had entered the country on visitor's visas.

Renee Pezzi had forfeited her American citizenship when she married an Italian in 1920, but she hoped the Cable Act could help her regain it. Although the Italian quota was exhausted, she and her husband thought they could maneuver around that roadblock by entering the country as "temporary visitors." Pezzi planned to remain in the United States for at least a year, long enough to petition for naturalization under the Cable Act. But when her request for citizenship reached District Court Judge Edward J. Henning, a former Assistant Secretary of Labor, he declared her ineligible for citizenship.

Pezzi's visitor status made her pledge to remain in the United States meaningless, and Judge Henning dismissed her peremptorily from his court with the announcement that she was a woman with "no status in the United States other than being the wife of her husband."[74] Henning's remark was cruel but accurate. Under present law, Pezzi's status as the wife of a visiting alien completely eclipsed her premarital standing as a resident and citizen of the United States. If Pezzi's husband had been a citizen or a declarant alien, she could have entered the United States as a nonquota immigrant.

It was easier for the foreign-born wives of citizens to enter the country than for American-born women seeking repatriation—a discrepancy in treatment that did not go unnoticed by expatriates stranded abroad and nationality-law reformers at home. Loretta Guignet, a marital expatriate living in France, recalled that a New York Herald article announcing the quota-exempt arrival of fifteen Czechs as the fiancees of naturalized men had kindled her indignation. "That was the day I woke up from my Rip van Winkle sleep," Guignet recalled. "When I compared my children's and my own humiliation each time we enter my native land as aliens to the joy of those fifteen foreign born women about to enter the country as Americans, because the naturalized citizens who gave them the right to enter thus were men, and I was only a woman, I realized that it was high time that we American born 'aliens' bestirred ourselves.


Meanwhile, Equal Rights publicized incidents such as the following to illustrate the immigration problems besetting marital expatriates:

Louise Riva, American-born, American-bred, even American-wed, since she married an Italian in this country, was held at Ellis Island for deportation. Deserted by her husband in Italy, where else could she go but to the land of her birth, of her parents' citizenship, of her nearest kin who are willing and able to help her? Even the visitor's visa with which she had been provided in Italy, could not get her past the immigration inspectors when she audaciously declared that she was going to stay here forever because this is her country. This could not happen to an American-born man unless he had voluntarily given up his citizenship here by taking an oath of allegiance to another government.[76]

Emily Martin's case also demonstrated the legalized prejudice dogging women in transnational marriages. As an American-born woman expatriated by her pre-Cable marriage to a German, Martin had petitioned successfully for naturalization in 1924. During the course of her interview with a naturalization examiner Martin had admitted that she would consider returning to Germany with her two children if her husband preferred to live there. Her candor later cost Martin her recently recovered citizenship. After issuing her citizenship certificate, the Bureau of Naturalization apparently had second thoughts about Martin's fitness. A federal district court supported the Bureau's decision to revoke her naturalization papers after concluding that Martin never intended to remain in the United States permanently. Despite the Cable Act, Martin's ties to the United States were still too weak to sustain a bid for citizenships.[77] Her inability to argue successfully for her repatriation once again highlighted the remaining disparities between American men's and women's power to assert and sustain an independent identity. Martin remained a disowned American because she remained the wife of an alien. As one native-born woman expatriated by marriage and facing deportation complained bitterly, "The government of the U.S.A. seeks to prove that I am not an asset to my country, but a chattel of my . . . husband."[78]

"If she was good enough to be a citizen before marriage, she is good


enough to be a citizen after marriage," argued Burnita Shelton Matthews of the NWP. Why, she asked, did a resident or nonresident marital expatriate have to satisfy special naturalization requirements before she could once again call herself an American?[79] The circumstances that had sabotaged the repatriation of Martin were not identical to those thwarting the revival of Pezzi's, Riva's, or Guignet's citizenship; but in each case a gender-based double standard had obstructed their repatriation. Claire de Montagut summed up the sentiments of many American-born women who, like she, had married foreign men, remained in the United States, but were now required by law to petition for naturalization: "How can a woman take out papers to assume citizenship in a country that is already hers by birth? It is not hers by adoption but her birthright. . . . My husband's citizenship papers would restore that right to me, but why shall women depend on another's papers. . . . I would far rather be given the National [sic ] right to be what I was born to be—an American citizen."[80]

Native-born resident women like de Montagut had never stopped viewing themselves as Americans and their citizenship as their birthright. For these women, the law that expatriated them had defined them in almost incomprehensible terms, for nothing else about their lives suggested that they were no longer Americans. Contrary to a lingering popular myth, the American woman married to an alien could preserve intact her loyalty and affection for her native country. The emotion-filled letters these women wrote to newspapers, women's organizations, federal legislators, executive department officials, and one another record their pain, anger, and disbelief over their involuntary loss of citizenship. But federal law had placed barriers, some insurmountable, between these women and their native country. As one expatriated woman remarked contemptuously, "Other countries pass laws to keep their people who have migrated to other lands, whereas our own grand United States passes laws repudiating her own loyal native and adopted children for the dreadful crime of marrying."[81]

The provisions of the original Cable Act affirmed that the federal


government did not intend to treat the repatriation of these women as a mere formality. Although the government had taken a significant step toward releasing some married women from the state of dependent citizenship, that move had not signaled a full repudiation of the principal justification for marital expatriation: that women's marriages to foreigners were, as one Congressman put it, "open broad daylight" decisions to become aliens. Federal law defined expatriation as a voluntary act, but in Congress and the courtroom this question of consent rarely gained thoughtful consideration in cases of marital expatriation. In the 1920S, that decade celebrating the independence of the "new woman," wifely subservience still had a legislative foothold. In matters of nationality, marriage could yet thrust a woman into that perverse legal realm in which a wife's consent was always stressed but never really required. As the Supreme Court had intimated in Mackenzie v. Hare, although the act of expatriation had to be uncoerced, whether the woman intended to renounce her citizenship by that act was irrelevant.

The Cable Act's framers did raise the standard of consent a notch by making a foreign residence or a husband ineligible for citizenship necessary to expatriate, but they deliberately left untouched the losses incurred under the 1907 act. Rather than declare all marital expatriations automatically void, Congress told women they must appeal to the government for the restoration of their citizenship. Even women who had married noncitizens before the Expatriation Act of 1907 went into effect had to plead for citizenship in the country's courtrooms, and the inconsistent rulings in these cases only reconfirmed that, despite the Cable Act, women's access to citizenship was still capriciously granted or denied.[82] Legislators' continued adherence to gendered standards of volition, their lingering resentment toward women living abroad with


foreign spouses, and the persistent fear that too many naturalized Americans would weaken the constitution of the citizenry all worked against women's achievement of equal nationality rights in the 1920S.

But other policy concerns also stood between women and independent citizenship, not the least of which was the State Department's desire to limit the number of persons claiming U.S. citizenship but living permanently abroad. Congress heeded this request in 1906, 1907, and then again in 1922, when limiting the Cable Act's repatriation provisions to resident women.[83] For marital expatriates like Emily Martin, merely contemplating a departure from the country was reason enough for the government to stamp their naturalization papers "void."

The Supreme Court had declared that citizenship implied "a duty of allegiance on the part of the member and a duty of protection on the part of the society" to which she belonged."[84] As the country's naturalization policies increasing exhibited, residency in the United States had become an influential factor in determining whether a new citizen was. indeed, an American in fact as well as in name—one as willing to shoulder the duties and responsibilities of citizenship as demand its protections.

The residency requirement also worked against American women who married noncitizens after the Cable Act went into effect. They discovered that the law allowed a prolonged absence from the country to cause the revocation, not just suspension, of their citizenship. To recoup their citizenship, these women had to return to the United States on immigrant visas and then seek naturalization. These Cable rules represented a significant departure from the government's general policy on expatriating absentee citizens. As Dorothy Straus of the NLWV explained to a House Committee, the Cable Act had turned what traditionally had been "a presumption" into "a legislative enactment." The State Department now interpreted even a native-born woman's absence from the country "in the most rigid way," thus depriving those living outside the United States of their citizenship. "It would seem that Congress is showing its disapproval of the American daughter who


goes to a far country," concluded Wold. "When she wishes to return, she has not the welcome of the prodigal son. We shall have to continue to play the role of the importunate widow."[85]

State Department officials surveyed this situation from a different angle and continued to echo the view of the Secretary of Labor that the presumptive expatriation rule must apply to nonresident American women married to aliens. Otherwise, their exemption would cause "no end of problems."[86] American women with foreign residences and spouses still represented the kind of citizen the State Department increasingly sought permission to ignore—the citizen suspected to be more foreign than American. And the Cable Act had given the Department permission to indulge in that neglect.

The expatriation-by-residence rule was a troublesome one, not just for female expatriates seeking naturalization but for those who had to supervise its application. According to one legal expert, there was "a seemingly hopeless conflict" over its interpretations.[87] No statute adequately explained how a presumption of expatriation evolved into a state of expatriation and, consequently, the rule was inconsistently applied in cases involving absentee naturalized Americans requesting passports or personal protection from the federal government. Citing its ambiguity and diminishing effectiveness, many legal experts called for the rule's replacement with a more precise policy, while others argued


that the confusion was best remedied by an international code on nationality matters.[88]

The Cable Act had only added to the confusion surrounding these expatriation rules. Two months before passage of the law, the assistant commissioner general of immigration had notified his commissioners of immigration as well as district inspectors that a naturalized citizen whose absence from the United States exceeded the two-or five-year limit could reenter the country as a citizen if he provided proof of his naturalization. The assistant commissioner general added that this policy reflected the views of the Attorney General, Labor Department solicitor, and Bureau of Naturalization.[89] A month after the introduction of the Cable Act, the Immigration Bureau began its retreat from this policy. In a vaguely worded annulment of the earlier memo, the acting commissioner general proposed that each absentee's case be decided on its own merits. If immigration agents always assumed that returning to the United States reinstated citizenship, "a considerable number of indigent, aged, diseased, disabled and otherwise undesirable persons will be admitted to become a menace to the health of the community and to become public charges within the states."[90] The announcement did not mention the situation of American women abroad, but the timing of the policy reversal strongly suggests that the introduction of the Cable Act had revived internal discussions about the Bureau's interpretation of the presumptive expatriation rules.[91]


In 1923 the State Department issued a general letter to its diplomatic and consular officers stating that, in the absence of a court decision on this particular point, a citizen's reentry into the United States dispelled the presumption of expatriation. The State Department's interpretation of Section 2 of the 1907 Expatriation Act could have been employed to support the returning marital expatriate's claim to citizenship, but no test case ever materialized.[92] Some policymakers and legal experts interpreted this lack of litigation as evidence that most women did not care deeply about the loss of their citizenship through marriage. Lucius Crane, a man who apparently thought he knew as much about the workings of women's minds as he did about international law, offered this explanation: "For today it is sufficient to remember that, in the vast majority of families, the husband is the protector and the home-maker and carries the burden of the family responsibilities. That the vast majority of wives are more than content to so regard their husbands and to throw in their lot with them, whatever it be, irrespective of home or nationality, is undoubted. One cannot seriously contemplate the average young woman declining an otherwise pleasing proposal of marriage on the ground that she will change her citizenship thereby."[93]

Perhaps Crane could afford to blithely dismiss the hardships of marital expatriation because as a designated "protector" of his family he would never experience them directly, but the woman who married an


alien and moved out of the country could testify that her actions incurred heavy personal losses. "Those of us who were married to foreigners before the Cable Act and the Immigration Acts little dreamed that one day the doors of our homeland might be shut to us and our children forever," lamented Loretta Guignet.[94] Unlike an American man married to a noncitizen, she did not possess the legal means to reenter the United States as a citizen or even as a nonquota immigrant, to assist her children's admission to the country, or to effect their naturalization as American citizens.[95]

For Guignet and other women in transnational marriages, the introduction of the quota system in 1921 and the Cable Act the following year dramatically revised the immigration and naturalization options available to them. Yet, these laws and the regulations they begot did not affect married women in a uniformly positive or negative way. Indeed, even the small number of cases profiled in this chapter should extinguish any assumption that all women enjoyed some measure of improvement in their access to or maintenance of American citizenship under the Cable Act.

The Cable Act and the other immigration acts had widely varying effects on former citizens who had lost their citizenship for marrying aliens. Those marital expatriates residing in the United States and married to resident men eligible for naturalization profited significantly from the Cable Act's provisions for repatriation. As Congress intended, these women were the principal beneficiaries of the law's modification of the rules of marital expatriation. In contrast, the woman of color, citizen or alien, who had married a man ineligible for citizenship could not even stand in that benefits' line. The Cable Act and immigration laws offered her nothing more than the irreversible loss of her citizenship if she had been an American before her marriage and permanent exclusion from citizenship if she had not been.


The Cable Act closed the short and easy route to citizenship that immigrant wives of citizens had once enjoyed, a development that satisfied many American feminists but not everyone interested in promoting the welfare of immigrants. The nationality law opened no path to U.S. citizenship to the foreign woman who belonged to a race ineligible for naturalization; and in 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act delivered the coup de grace by ending her prospects of either entering or reentering the country for permanent residence. For immigrant women with spouses eligible for naturalization, the law's advantages were less ambiguous. These women finally possessed the power to petition independently for naturalization.

Together, the Cable Act and the quota system placed unprecedented restrictions on the admission of marital expatriates and immigrant women married to American men. The Cable Act's abolition of marital naturalization provided a legal opportunity for the Immigration Bureau to challenge the automatic admission of citizens' foreign wives to the United States. Although the Bureau's efforts met with limited success, some women who once could have readily entered the country as citizens now lived subject to the rigorous rules imposed by the country's immigration laws until they became independently naturalized Americans.

The Cable Act of 1922 fell short of disinfesting the country's naturalization and immigration policies of gender discrimination. Naturalization law, and to a greater extent immigration law, still assumed a married woman's legal dependence when expedient. This assumption limited the ability of women in transnational marriages to claim and retain an independent citizenship. At the same time, it did yield significant benefits for some immigrating women with husbands in the United States. Despite the federal government's broad commitment to immigration and naturalization control in the 1920s, Congress was still willing to support special admission and naturalization privileges for the wives of citizens or resident aliens once marital naturalizations ceased. Legislators' consideration for the social wants of American men and their families improved many foreign-born women's chances of gaining permanent entry into the United States despite the quotas, and it abbreviated the length of time they waited before becoming citizens.

The unique status that wives gained by being certified through these special circumstances was equally capable of delivering unpleasant consequences. Although the political and economic situation of her husband could improve a woman's chances of gaining access to both the


country and the ranks of citizenship, it was equally capable of effecting her denaturalization, exclusion, or deportation from the United States. Immigration and nationality law recognized a married woman's independent standing before the law insofar as that autonomy advanced key policy goals. A resident married woman could retain her U.S. citizenship despite marriage to an alien, but her independent citizenship immediately converted to a dependent one if she crossed the country's borders. Likewise, a woman's independent citizenship evaporated without a trace if the law declared her husband unsuitable for citizenship. Traditional notions about the structuring of marital identity and power still informed portions of the law, ensuring that a woman's ability to enter the United States, to reside in the country, and to remain a citizen or become a citizen might still depend ultimately on the federal government's assessment of her spouse's economic and social value to the country.

The advocates of equal nationality rights persisted well into the 1930s, seeking to replace some of the fundamental principles used to construct the country's immigration and naturalization policies with less discriminatory underpinnings. Eventually, the assumption of female dependence would be supplanted by a presumption of women's independence and the notion of patriarchal rights would be cleared away to make room for recognition of corresponding spousal rights. When the revolution was complete, marital expatriates and noncitizen women would pursue and possess U.S. citizenship unencumbered by their spouses' economic or political liabilities. Some married women would still enjoy admission privileges but not because their husbands held some ancient claim to their services; rather, it was wise and humane social policy to foster the reunion of spouses and their children. Wives would have equal petitioning power to request the admissions of their immigrant husbands and children, and American mothers would gain the ability to clothe their children with their citizenship.

These developments remained elusive in the 1920s, but never outside the realm of the imagination of nationality-rights reformers. The decade had brought some notable successes: the Cable Act; preference-quota status for Americans' husbands by 1924; and, within the next four years, nonquota status for some husbands and marital expatriates. In the 1920s, dismantling the fences barring married women from residency and citizenship was a task that had to be tackled post by post, but national and international developments of the next decade presented the possibility of employing a bolder strategy.


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