Perkins v. Elg
307 U.S. 325 (1939)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325 (1939)

Perkins v. Elg

No. 454

Argued February 3, 1939

Decided May 29, 1939*

307 U.S. 325

Syllabus

1. A child born here of alien parentage becomes a citizen of the United States. P. 307 U. S. 328.

2. As municipal law determines how citizenship may be acquired, the same person may possess a dual nationality. P. 307 U. S. 329.

3. A citizen by birth retains his United States citizenship unless deprived of it through the operation of a treaty or congressional enactment or by his voluntary action in conformity with applicable legal principles. P. 307 U. S. 329.

4. 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. P. 307 U. S. 329.

Expatriation is the voluntary renunciation or abandonment of nationality and allegiance. P. 307 U. S. 334.

5. This right of election is consistent with the naturalization treaty with Sweden of 1869 and its accompanying protocol. P. 307 U. S. 335.

6. The Act of March 2, 1907, in providing "That any American citizen shall be deemed to have expatriated himself when he has been naturalized in any foreign state in conformity with its laws, . . . " was aimed at voluntary expatriation, and was not intended to destroy the right of a native citizen, removed from this country during minority, to elect to retain the citizenship acquired by birth and to return here for that purpose, even though he may be deemed to have been naturalized under the foreign law by derivation from the citizenship of his parents before he came of age. P. 307 U. S. 342.

Page 307 U. S. 326

This is true not only where the parents were foreign nationals at the time of the birth of the child and remained such, but also where they became foreign nationals after the birth and removal of the child.

7. Recent private Acts of Congress for the relief of native citizens who have been the subject of administrative action denying their rights of citizenship cannot be regarded as the equivalent of an Act of Congress providing that persons in the situation of the respondent here have lost the American citizenship which they acquired at birth and have since duly elected to retain. P. 307 U. S. 349.

8. Threats of deportation by the Secretary of Labor and immigration officials, and refusal by the Secretary of State to issue a passport, upon the disputed ground that the person affected has lost his native citizenship and become an alien wrongfully in the country, involve an actual controversy affording basis for a suit for a declaratory judgment that he is a citizen and for an injunction. P. 307 U. S. 349

9. In such a suit, the Secretary of State is properly included in the declaratory provision of the decree, that he may be precluded from refusing to issue the passport solely upon the ground that the citizenship has been lost. Id.

69 App.D.C. 175, 99 F.2d 408, modified and affirmed.

Certiorari, 305 U.S. 591, to review the affirmance of a decree sustaining, as to the Secretary of State, and overruling, as to the Secretary of Labor and the Acting Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, a bill brought by Marie Elizabeth Elg for a declaratory decree establishing her status as an American citizen, and for injunctive relief against the respondents. There were cross-appeals to the court below.

Page 307 U. S. 327

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