Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sex and Citizenship

In Jordan, the foreign born husbands of Jordanian women and their children can never be Jordanian citizens. Even if they live their entire lives in Jordan, they will always be 'outsiders,' unable to enjoy basic social rights. Conversely, the foreign born wives and children of Jordanian men automatically receive citizenship. Jordanian law also states that the children of male Jordanians inherit their father’s nationality no matter where they are born, even if they’ve never set foot in Jordan. Unfair? In the past, similar views on women, race/ethnicity, citizenship and marriage existed in the US - but here, I will briefly address only women.

In 1855, the US Congress declared that foreign born women married to US citizens or naturalized aliens automatically acquired US citizenship, but only if they were qualified as white. Indeed, the Supreme Court in 1868 held that only white women be allowed to gain citizenship upon marriage to a US citizen. If they did not meet racial restrictions, men too were denied naturalization, which meant that even if they were white, foreign born women married to men not considered white could not gain citizenship for themselves, regardless of their qualifications.

Congress legislated in 1907 that any woman married to an alien would have her citizenship terminated. In 1922, Congress partially repealed the act, but continued to strip citizenship from any woman married to a non-citizen racially barred from naturalization. Also in 1922, Congress ended automatic citizenship for women upon marriage to a citizen or naturalized alien. Moreover, many courts in the US took away a woman's citizenship if she married a foreigner. This law was repealed in 1931.

While non-white women faced restrictions on citizenship based on their sex and race, it should be noted that others too were unfairly subjected to US citizenship laws. It was not until 1924 that Congress passed an act granting US citizenship to all Native Americans in the US. (This meant, interestingly, that legendary all-American athlete and Native American Jim Thorpe was not legally a US citizen when he successfully competed in the 1912 Olympics in Sweden.) Additionally, it was not until 1940 and the Nationality Act that all persons born in the US automatically became citizens of the US. Of course, the racial component of citizenship is still alive and well in states (AZ, CA, TX for example) with large numbers of illegal/undocumented immigrants. But that's another blog.

For the full article by Laurent Zecchini, "Jordan: Mixed Marriages, Geopolitics And A Gender Double Standard" printed in Worldcrunch from Le Monde, click here.

(Information for this blog was taken from, "Racial Restrictions in the Law of Citizenship" by Ian E. Haney Lopez in "White by Law: the legal construction of race," NYU Press, 2006.

No comments:

Post a Comment