South Asians Barred From Citizenship

1923

United States

Borders Discrimination & Inequity Race & Ethnicity

In a landmark 1923 Supreme Court case, the court ruled that Bhagat Singh Thind, an Indian immigrant and U.S. army veteran, was not “white” and, therefore, could not become a U.S. citizen. According to the Naturalization Act of 1790 (see also: Naturalization Act of 1790), only “free white” immigrants were eligible for naturalization. Thind had argued that South Asians were in fact classified as part of the “Caucasian race” and were therefore white. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court had previously ruled that whiteness was a scientific fact of Caucasian ancestry, in order to deny citizenship to Thind, it ruled that whiteness was a matter of “common sense.” The ruling led to more than 50 denaturalization proceedings of previously naturalized South Asians.