Perkins v. Elg Elg v. Perkins, Nos. 454

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHUGHES
Citation307 U.S. 325,59 S.Ct. 884,83 L.Ed. 1320
Decision Date29 May 1939
Docket Number455,Nos. 454
PartiesPERKINS, Secretary of Labor, et al. v. ELG. ELG v. PERKINS, Secretary of Labor, et al

307 U.S. 325
59 S.Ct. 884
83 L.Ed. 1320
PERKINS, Secretary of Labor, et al.

v.

ELG. ELG v. PERKINS, Secretary of Labor, et al.

Nos. 454, 455.
Argued Feb. 3, 1939.
Decided May 29, 1939.

Page 326

Messrs. Frank Murphy, Atty. Gen., and Robert H. Jackson, Sol. Gen., for Perkins et al.

Mr. Henry F. Butler, of Washington, D.C., for Elg.

[Argument of Counsel from page 326 intentionally omitted]

Page 327

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question is whether the plaintiff, Marie Elizabeth Elg. who was born in the United States of Swedish parents then naturalized here, has lost her citizenship and is subject to deportation because of her removal during minority to Sweden, it appearing that her parents resumed their citizenship in that country but that she returned here on attaining majority with intention to remain and to maintain her citizenship in the United States.

Miss Elg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 2, 1907. Her parents, who were natives of Sweden, emigrated to the United States sometime prior to 1906 and her father was naturalized here in that year. In 1911, her mother took her to Sweden where she continued to reside until September 7, 1929. Her father went to Sweden in 1922 and has not since returned to the United States. In November, 1934, he made a statement before an American consul in Sweden that he had voluntarily expatriated himself for the reason that he did not desire to retain the status of an American citizen and wished to preserve his allegiance to Sweden.

In 1928, shortly before Miss Elg became twenty-one years of age, she inquired an American consul in Sweden about returning to the United States and was informed that if she returned after attaining majority she should seek an American passport. In 1929, within eight months after attaining majority, she obtained an American passport which was issued on the instructions of the Secretary of State. She then returned to the United States, was admitted as a citizen and has resided in this country ever since.

Page 328

In April, 1935, Miss Elg was notified by the Department of Labor that she was an alien illegally in the United States and was threatened with deportation. Proceedings to effect her deportation have been postponed from time to time. In July, 1936, she applied for an American passport but it was refused by the Secretary of State upon the sole ground that he was without authority to issue it because she was not a citizen of the United States.

Thereupon she began this suit against the Secretary of Labor, the Acting Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, and the Secretary of State to obtain (1) a declaratory judgment that she is a citizen of the United States and entitled to all the rights and privileges of citizenship, and (2) an injunction against the Secretary of Labor and the Commissioner of Immigration restraining them from prosecuting proceedings for her deportation, and (3) an injunction against the Secretary of State from refusing to issue to her a passport upon the ground that she is not a citizen.

The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that plaintiff was not a citizen of the United States by virtue of the Naturalization Convention and Protocol of 1869 (proclaimed in 1872) between the United States and Sweden (17 Stat. 809) and the Swedish Nationality Law, and Section 2 of the Act of Congress of March 2, 1907, 8 U.S.C. § 17, 8 U.S.C.A. § 17. The District Court overruled the motion as to the Secretary of Labor and the Commissioner of Immigration and entered a decree declaring that the plaintiff is a native citizen of the United States but directing that the complaint be dismissed as to the Secretary of State because of his official discretion in the issue of passports. On cross appeals, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decree, 69 App.D.C. 175, 99 F.2d 408. Certiorari was granted, December 5, 1938, 305 U.S. 591, 59 S.Ct. 245, 83 L.Ed. —-.

First.—On her birth in New York, the plaintiff became a citizen of the United States. Civil Rights Act of 1866,

Page 329

14 Stat. 27; Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1, U.S.C.A.Const.; United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 18 S.Ct. 456, 42 L.Ed. 890. In a comprehensive review of the principles and authorities governing the decision in that case—that a child born here of alien parentage becomes a citizen of the United States—the Court adverted to the 'inherent right of every independent nation to determine for itself, and according to its own constitution and laws, what classes of persons shall be entitled to its citizenship.' United States v. Wong Kim Ark, supra, 169 U.S. page 668, 18 S.Ct. page 164, 42 L.Ed. 890. As municipal law determines how citizenship may be acquired, it follows that persons may have a dual nationality.1 And the mere fact that the plaintiff may have acquired Swedish citizenship by virtue of the operation of Swedish law, on the resumption of that citizenship by her parents, does not compel the conclusion that she has lost her own citizenship acquired under our law. As at birth she became a citizen of the United States, at citizenship must be deemed to continue unless she has been deprived of it through the operation of a treaty or congressional enactment or by her voluntary action in conformity with applicable legal principles.

Second.—It has long been a recognized principle in this country that if a child born here is taken during minority to the country of his parents' origin, where his parents resume their former allegiance, he does not thereby lose his citizenship in the United States provided that on attaining majority he elects to retain that citizenship and to return to the United States to assume its duties.2

Page 330

This principle was clearly stated by Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont in his letter of advice to the Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, in Steinkauler's Case, 1875, 15 Op.Atty.Gen. 15. The facts were these: One Steinkauler, a Prussian subject by birth, emigrated to the United States in 1848, was naturalized in 1854, and in the following year had a son who was born in St. Louis. Four years later Steinkauler returned to Germany taking this child and became domiciled at Weisbaden where they continuously resided. When the son reached the age of twenty years the German Government called upon him to report for military duty and his father then invoked the intervention of the American Legation on the ground that his son was a native citizen of the United States. To an inquiry by our Minister, the father declined to give an assurance that the son would return to this country within a reasonable time. On reviewing the pertinent points in the case, including the Naturalization Treaty of 1868 with North Germany, 15 Stat. 615, the Attorney General reached the following conclusion:

'Young Steinkauler is a native-born American citizen. There is no law of the United States under which his father or any other person can deprive him of his birthright. He can return to America at the age of twenty-one, and in due time, if the people elect, he can become President of the United States; but the father, in accordance with the treaty and the laws, has renounced his American citizenship and his American allegiance and has acquired for himself and his son German citizenship and the rights which it carries and he must take the burdens as well as the advantages. The son being domiciled with the father and subject to him under the law during his minority, and receiving the German protection where he has acquired nationality and declining to give any assurance of ever returning to the United States and claiming his American nationality by residence here, I am of the opinion that he cannot rightly invoke the aid of

Page 331

the Government of the United States to relieve him from military duty in Germany during his minority. But I am of opinion that when he reaches the age of twenty-one years he can then elect whether he will return and take the nationality of his birth with its duties and privileges, or retain the nationality acquired by the act of his father. This seems to me to be right reason' and I think it is law'.

Secretary William M. Evarts, in 1879, in an instruction to our Minister to Germany with respect to the status of the brothers Boisseliers who were born in the United States of German parentage said:3

'Their rights rest on the organic law of the United States. * * * Their father, it is true, took them to Schleswig when they were quite young, the one four and the other two years old. They lived there many years, but during all those years they were minors, and during their minority they returned to the United States; and now, when both have attained their majority, they declare for their native allegiance and submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the country where they were born and of which they are native citizens. Under these circumstances this Government cannot recognize any claim to their allegiance or their liability to military service, put forth on the part of Germany, whatever may be the municipal law of Germany under which such claim may be asserted by that Government'.

Secretary Evarts gave a similar instruction in 1880 with respect to a native citizen of Danish parentage who having been taken abroad at an early age claimed American citizenship on attaining his majority, saying:4

'He lost no time when he attained the age of majority, in declaring that he claimed the United States as his country and that he considered himself a citizen of

Page 332

the United States. He appears to have adhered to this choice ever since and now declares it to be his intention to return to this country and reside here permanently. His father's political status (whether a citizen of the United States or a Danish subject) has no legal or otherwise material effect on the younger P———s' rights of citizenship'.

Secretary Thomas F. Bayard, in...

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203 practice notes
  • Jointrefugee Committee v. Grath National Council Offriendship v. Grath International Workers Order v. Grath, ANTI-FASCIST
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 30, 1951
    ...remainder, 2,872, quit while under investigation and might or might not have been found disloyal.' New York Times, January 16, 1951. 5. 307 U.S. 325, 349, 59 S.Ct. 884, 896, 83 L.Ed. 1320. That was an action to mandamus the Secretary of State to issue a passport, to which it was conceded Mi......
  • United States v. Rangel-Perez, Cr. No. 25568-CD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 9, 1959
    ...146, the Court held that one who is born in this country cannot elect to give up his citizenship, thus overruling Perkins v. Elg, 1939, 307 U.S. 325, 59 S.Ct. 884, 83 L.Ed. There is no merit in this contention. Perkins v. Elg held that one who is born in the United States, lives abroad duri......
  • Tomoya Kawakita v. United States, No. 12061.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 24, 1951
    ...United States citizenship. Expatriation is the voluntary renunciation or abandonment of nationality and allegiance. Perkins v. Elg, 1939, 307 U.S. 325, 59 S.Ct. 884, 83 L.Ed. 1320. In order to be relieved of the duties of allegiance, consent of the sovereign is required. Mackenzie v. Hare, ......
  • Texas American Asphalt Corporation v. Walker, Civ. A. No. 12622.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • September 18, 1959
    ...Exchange Commission v. Chenery 177 F. Supp. 323 Corporation, 332 U.S. 194, 200-201, 67 S.Ct. 1575, 1760, 91 L.Ed. 1995; Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325, 349-350, 59 S.Ct. 884, 83 L.Ed. 1320. See also Federal Trade Commission v. Morton Salt Co., 334 U.S. 37, 54-55, 68 S.Ct. 822, 92 L.Ed. 1196; ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
203 cases
  • Jointrefugee Committee v. Grath National Council Offriendship v. Grath International Workers Order v. Grath, ANTI-FASCIST
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 30, 1951
    ...remainder, 2,872, quit while under investigation and might or might not have been found disloyal.' New York Times, January 16, 1951. 5. 307 U.S. 325, 349, 59 S.Ct. 884, 896, 83 L.Ed. 1320. That was an action to mandamus the Secretary of State to issue a passport, to which it was conceded Mi......
  • United States v. Rangel-Perez, Cr. No. 25568-CD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 9, 1959
    ...146, the Court held that one who is born in this country cannot elect to give up his citizenship, thus overruling Perkins v. Elg, 1939, 307 U.S. 325, 59 S.Ct. 884, 83 L.Ed. There is no merit in this contention. Perkins v. Elg held that one who is born in the United States, lives abroad duri......
  • Tomoya Kawakita v. United States, No. 12061.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 24, 1951
    ...United States citizenship. Expatriation is the voluntary renunciation or abandonment of nationality and allegiance. Perkins v. Elg, 1939, 307 U.S. 325, 59 S.Ct. 884, 83 L.Ed. 1320. In order to be relieved of the duties of allegiance, consent of the sovereign is required. Mackenzie v. Hare, ......
  • Texas American Asphalt Corporation v. Walker, Civ. A. No. 12622.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • September 18, 1959
    ...Exchange Commission v. Chenery 177 F. Supp. 323 Corporation, 332 U.S. 194, 200-201, 67 S.Ct. 1575, 1760, 91 L.Ed. 1995; Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325, 349-350, 59 S.Ct. 884, 83 L.Ed. 1320. See also Federal Trade Commission v. Morton Salt Co., 334 U.S. 37, 54-55, 68 S.Ct. 822, 92 L.Ed. 1196; ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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