American Citizenship


Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary defines "citizen" as:

  1. A native or naturalized person owing allegiance to, and entitled to protection from, a government.
  2. A resident of a city or town.
  3. A civilian, as distinguished from a public officer, soldier, etc. The same dictionary defined "Citizenship" as "The status of a citizen, with its rights, privileges, and duties.

American Flag In the United States, citizenship may be acquired in one of two ways; either as a "natural" citizen or a "naturalized" citizen. Those that obtain their citizenship at birth are referred to as "natural" citizens, while those that acquired their citizenship, or become citizens at some time after their birth are referred to as "naturalized" citizens.

"Natural citizens at the same time, can be subdivided into two groups; those that acquired their citizenship by having been born in the United States, or under its jurisdiction, and those that acquired their citizenship by been born to parents that are, or were then, citizens of the United States." (1)

In very simple terms, those individuals who are born in U.S. soil or under its jurisdiction are said to have received their citizenship under the doctrine of "jus soli" or by the "right of the land". Natural citizens who are not born within the United States, but who are born from parents who were citizens of the United States at the time of their birth acquire their citizenship under the "jure sanguinis" doctrine or by the "right through blood".

The process to become an individual "naturalized" citizen is a process controlled by the Department of Justice of the United States, where a qualified candidate is reviewed and approved by the Federal Court System. If successful the candidate is allowed to take an "Oath to Allegiance" in front of a judge to become a citizen.

Once approved the "naturalized" citizen has the same rights and duties (With a few exceptions) of a "natural citizen". "Collective Naturalization" happens when under congressional order, citizenship is granted to people who reside in a territory under United States sovereignty. This was the case as when American Citizenship was granted to the people of Puerto Rico under the Jones-Shaffroth Act of May 2, 1917.

The Constitution of the United States of America did not have a definition of "citizenship", and it did not have any rules as to how to obtain it. To address this issue, the Fourteenth Amendment was approved on July 9th,1868. It specified among other items under Section 1, that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside"

In a recent plebiscite held in 1993, 48.4% of electors voted in favor of an "ideal" type of commonwealth, 46.2% voted in favor of statehood, and 4.4% voted in favor of independence. Having American citizenship an essential element under both statehood and commonwealth, clearly 96% of the Puerto Rican electorate voted for the preservation of our American citizenship. When one realizes that even under independence, the preference of the Puerto Rico Independence Party is to maintain Puerto Rican as well as American citizenship, one can conclude that 100% -the totality of the Puerto Rican population demand and want to maintain the citizenship of the United States of America.

John A. Regis, Jr.
(1)La Ciudadania en Puerto Rico, Reece B Bothwell, 1980

There is a considerable amount of information in this subject. You will find some of this information under our "Documents" section or by using some of our Suggested Links section.

ADDITIONAL articles on American Citizenship coming soon...

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