USCIS Webinar, Thursday, August 23, 2018, 1 p.m. (Eastern): “Indexes to Alien Case Files (A-Files) at the National Archives

On Thursday, August 23, 2018, at 1 p.m. (Eastern), an historian at the USCIS will present a very useful webinar, particularly for those with ancestors who arrived in the first have of the 20th century.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has transferred over a million Alien Files (A-Files) to National Archives custody in Kansas City, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. Researchers can use the National Archives catalog and well-known genealogy research sites to search for files.

Are all the indices the same? What information is included in each index? This webinar will discuss the index data and how to search various indices to find an A-File at the National Archives. We will also discuss the role of the index in transferring A-Files to the Archives.

*This webinar will not be recorded, so be sure to join it live.*

How to Attend:

1.  Visit the USCIS History and Genealogy webpage.

2.  Click “Guide to I&N History: Thursday, August 23.”

3.  Click “Attend Session” just before the webinar start time at 1 p.m. (Eastern). If you’ve not attended a previous USCIS webinar online, it would be a good idea to hit “attend session” 10 minutes early to make sure you have the right software, etc.

USCIS Webinar, Thursday, 24 May 2018, 1 p.m. (Eastern): Interpreting Odd INS Naturalization Index Cards: The Case of “Gladys H”

“Interpreting Odd INS Naturalization Index Cards: The Case of “Gladys H” — Thursday, May 24, 1:00 PM Eastern

If you’ve ever searched online for mid-20th century naturalization records, you may have encountered unusual or hard-to-understand index cards. This webinar by a USCIS historian, will discuss examples of these cards, then present a real-life case study of the variety of numbers in Gladys H.’s complicated road to naturalization.

To attend the webinar (which will not be recorded), go to USCIS History and Genealogy Webinars, choose the May 24 session, and hit the “attend session” button. If you have not attended one of these webinars previously, hit the “attend session” button 10 or 15 minutes in advance, in case you need to download the appropriate software.

Review of USCIS Webinar: “‘Any alien’ serving in the military or naval forces of the United States? Asian immigrant soldiers and naturalization during the First World War”

On 25 April 2018, USCIS historian Zack Wilske gave an excellent presentation about the laws affecting naturalization of Asian alien soldiers and sailors during World War I. Without reproducing his webinar, which was not recorded, let me share a few highlights.

The Naturalization Act of 9 May 1918 provided expedited naturalization for “any alien serving in the military or naval service of the United States during the time this country is engaged in the present war.” The serviceman needed proof of enlisted status or honorable discharge and  supporting testimony of two witnesses.

This Act exempted service members from five requirements: (1) five years of U.S. residency; (2) filing a declaration of intention; (3) ability to speak English; (4) the need to demonstrate knowledge of American history and institutions; and (5) the need to file in a court with jurisdiction over his residence.

The question soon arose whether Chinese, Japanese, and Hindoo [sic] servicemen could be naturalized under this law. Did Congress mean “any alien”  or was the 1918 act was to be read in harmony with prior statutes and case law that held that held that most Asian natives were not “free white persons” eligible to naturalize. (In 1870, Congress extended the right to naturalize to “persons of African nativity, or African descent.” Filipinos were also permitted to naturalize.)

There was disagreement within the Bureau of Naturalization, and between different Federal judges. Judge Horace W. Vaughan of the U.S. District Court of Hawaii construed “any alien” literally to include Asian servicemen, and began naturalizing them, as did some other judges. Ultimately the Bureau decided that Asians were not eligible, and selected the naturalization of Hidemitsu Toyota, who was naturalized in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 May 1921, as a test case to take all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided on 25 May 1925, that Asians were not included in the “any alien” language of the Act of 9 May 1918.

The Supreme Court decision made the naturalization status of those Asians murky at best and, condensing a lot of history here, eventually the Act of Congress of 24 June 1935 cleaned things up by (1) allowing Asian veterans of World War I to naturalize; (2) allowing Asians naturalized during the war to have their naturalization certificates validated; (3) allowing new certificates to be issued to those who lost them. These provisions expired 1 January 1937.

At least 700 Asian soldiers or veterans naturalized during or after World War I. Many of them were interned by the U.S. government during World War II. Racial bars on naturalization did not end until 1952.

Internment of Enemy Aliens During World War I

The internment of over 110,000 Japanese citizens and Americans of Japanese descent during World War II is well-known. In contrast, U.S. internment of over 6,000 German citizens and other enemy aliens during the First World War has been largely forgotten.

Was your ancestor interned? Read my article, “Internment of Enemy Aliens During World War I” for more information. I recommend starting with online newspaper databases which sometimes contain news reports about aliens arrested and detained. Then, you’ll want to locate federal records in the custody of the U.S. National Archives. My article will introduce you to available records and how to request record searches and copies.

EnEmAlienToymakersNAID31478939.jpg

Photo: Enemy aliens interned at Fort Douglas, Utah, pass the time by building model ships. 165-WW-161C-94. NAID 31478939. American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-18; Record Group 165, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs; National Archives at College Park, MD. 

“Disloyalty,” Naturalization, and World War I , USCIS webinar today, June 29, 2017, 1 p.m.

From the USCIS History Office:

I&N History Webinar: “Disloyalty,” Naturalization, and World War I

The First World War inspired patriotism in both native-born and immigrant Americans. At the same time, some immigrant groups fell under suspicion of being disloyal to the U.S. war effort. So, in the years surrounding the war, the Bureau of Naturalization investigated the loyalty of naturalizing immigrants to ensure that only fully qualified immigrants became citizens.

As part of the USCIS History Office’s ongoing commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, this webinar examines the Bureau of Naturalization’s loyalty investigations during the war and the Bureau’s efforts to revoke citizenship from naturalized citizens it deemed disloyal. In the webinar, you will learn about the Bureau’s wartime activities through primary-source examples of loyalty investigation files and cancelled certificate of naturalization files.

To join the webinar, find the June 29 webinar “Disloyalty,” Naturalization, and World War I and click “Attend Session” just before it starts at 1 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, June 29.

Please note: This webinar will not be recorded, so be sure to join it live.

Minor’s Naturalization

While we normally think of naturalization as a two step process whereby the alien first declares his intent to become a citizen and then petitions for naturalization, there were exceptions to that procedure.

For example, from 1824 to 1906, aliens who came to the U.S. while under age 18 could effectively declare their intent to become a citizen at the same time they filed their petition for naturalization once they had reached age 21 or more and had lived in the U.S. for five years (three of which as a minor). Let the law speak for itself:

image002.jpgSo, to summarize: the alien still had to meet the five year requirement for residency, and three years of that had to be while he was a minor.

Many courts used specific forms for these cases that combined declaration of intent language and petition language in one document, and they made sure to include the word “minor.”  Some may say the applicant “arrived as a minor,” while others will have the words “Minor Naturalization” emblazoned across the title or as a watermark.

For more on naturalization, see Naturalization Records and Women and Naturalization, Part I and Part II.