May 19 deadline fast approaches to provide U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services specific feedback on their services to genealogists….

This is not a hard ask. You can do this online. All the information you need to respond as a genealogist is at Records not Revenue at https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/take-action. You don’t have to comment on “everything.” Take one specific thing, make your comment, cite the appropriate section of the Code fo Federal Regulations. We, the genealogical community, need to make our collective voice heard. Do YOUR part today. One little comment MATTERS!

More details from Records not Revenue:

USCIS is seeking public comments about their services and programs. THIS IS OUR CHANCE to really make our voice heard about the Genealogy Program, and demand USCIS transfer their historical records to NARA. We believe that amplifying our voice during this comment period may give us a real opportunity to push this forward. THE DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS IS SOON – MAY 19TH! We only have 2 weeks to mobilize the troops and make our voices heard.

An important thing to understand about this campaign – USCIS poses 17 questions. They prefer specific citations for which regulations the submitted comments relate to. You don’t need to answer all (or even any) of the 17 questions, but it’s SUPER important that we note the relevant Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in our comments, and encourage others to do so. If we don’t, the comments go into a “General” pile and will be less effective. To give you an idea – right now, there are already 5.4K public comments. 5.16K of them are currently available to view online, and only 23 (!!) of those 5.16K have a “CFR” noted in their comment. If we can get hundreds or thousands of people commenting about 8 CFR 103.38 to 40 (the regulations relating to USCIS Genealogy Program), that will really get their attention.

Please please please share this information far and wide – with your genealogical societies (a perfect opportunity for an email blast), colleagues, clients, your family members, etc. Those who have blogs or a social media reach – well, you know what to do!

All the information that’s needed to understand the call for comments and how to respond is at the website – https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/take-action/. The rest of the site that’s visible has been updated, too.

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.

Review of “Married at Ellis Island….”

If you missed last Tuesday’s USCIS History Office webinar, “Married at Ellis Island…., 1892-1924,” you missed a good one. I won’t review all the details, but here are a few tidbits: It’s estimated that perhaps 300 women a year “married at Ellis Island” to their intended spouse in lieu of deportation on the grounds of “likely to become a public charge” or risk of falling into prostitution. The “Record of Detained Aliens” (title may vary) that follows the regular passenger lists for a given vessel (on microfilm or online) may have the notation “married” or similar words as a part of the information for the detained woman. The marriage record will be found in the New York City marriage records for that period which are online on Ancestry.com. A marriage on the alien woman’s date of arrival or during the day(s) she was detained is a good clue that the marriage happened “at Ellis Island” and was a requirement for her admission to the United States.