Mr. Rockhill to Prince Wrede.

No. 125.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 27th ultimo, making certain inquiries touching the citizenship of Emanuel, Samuel Benjamin, and Ephraim Kohn, the foreign-born sons of one Aaron Kohn, who is stated to have emigrated to the United States in 1886 and to have become naturalized in 1888. You transmit the naturalization certificate of Aaron Kohn, the father, issued November 13, 1888, and of Samuel Benjamin Kohn, one of the sons, issued October 24, 1893, and add that the naturalization of another son, Emanuel Kohn, is likewise asserted.

You further invite the views of this Government as to the provisions of Article I of the naturalization convention of September 20, 1870, between the United States and Austria-Hungary, with respect to the conditions of naturalization and five years’ residence, and also desire to be informed touching the naturalization of minors under the statutes of the United States and the time of their attainment of citizenship.

Answer to your several inquiries may be conveniently made under three heads:

First, as to the status of the father, Aaron Kohn. No record is found of the issuance of a passport by this Department to that person, and I am unable to disprove or confirm your statement that he received his certificate of naturalization after a residence in the United States of some two years. Inasmuch, however, as it has been adjudged by the decree of a competent court, after a hearing upon sworn testimony and with the party before the court, that Aaron Kohn had complied with the law as to residence and otherwise, and was legally admitted to citizenship, this Government, in the absence of proof that he was improperly naturalized, is bound to recognize him as a citizen of the United States. If, on the other hand, it is shown by competent evidence that he had not resided in the United States for the requisite period, then this Government can not claim him as a citizen, either under the convention of 1870 or under the laws of the United States.

Second, as to the status of the sons. Samuel Benjamin Kohn having been born, as you state, at Pressburg, in 1872, and a natural inference being that he, then a lad of 14, accompanied his father to this country in 1886, the stated facts and dates are consistent with his lawful naturalization on October 24, 1893, after attaining the age of 21 and after the statutory term of residence for five years in the United States.

The Department not being informed of the asserted date of the naturalization of Emanuel Kohn, can not express an opinion as to his lawful status, further than to remark that, having been born at Pressburg in 1871, he could, if coming to the United States with his father [Page 15] in 1886, have become lawfully naturalized independently after attaining the age of 21 and after having resided five years in the United States.

As to Ephraim Kohn, born at Pressburg in 1876, before the naturalization of his father, he is still a minor, and could not claim the status of a citizen save through actual residence in the United States at the time of his father’s naturalization or subsequently thereto. But if, as stated in my first reply, the father, Aaron Kohn, was improperly naturalized, this Government could not claim the citizenship of Ephraim Kohn under and through the father’s invalid title.

Third. The two conditions imposed by Article I of the convention of 1870 are regarded as concurrent but separable in fact. It is requisite that the party shall have resided at least five years in the United States, and also that during such period he shall have become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Now, a minor alien may in some cases lawfully acquire American citizenship after less than five years’ residence within our jurisdiction, but for the effects of the convention of 1870 the fulfillment of the concurrent condition of full five years’ residence should in case of question also be shown.

The foreign-born minor children of an alien, if dwelling in the United States at the time of their father’s naturalization or subsequent thereto while still minors, acquire American citizenship ipso facto, without the formality of a judical decree. (Sec. 2172, Rev. Stat.) Again, when an alien who has lawfully declared intention to become a citizen dies before actual completion of his naturalization, “the widow and children of such alien shall be considered as citizens of the United States, and shall be entitled to all rights and privileges as such upon taking the oaths prescribed by law.” (Sec. 2168, Rev. Stat.)

There are also two cases in which an alien, being over 21 years of age, may lawfully acquire citizenship after less than five years’ residence in the United States. An honorably discharged enlisted soldier is not required to prove more than one year’s residence prior to his application. (Sec. 2166, Rev. Stat.) An alien seaman, after three years’ service on an American ship, may upon discharge therefrom be admitted to citizenship. (Sec. 2174, Rev. Stat.) These two cases are, however, very exceptional. In the great majority of cases the possession of a judicial certificate of naturalization attests that the person has been admitted to citizenship after proving fulfillment of all the conditions prescribed by law, two of which conditions are the attainment of 21 years and a residence of five years prior to application. The oath of the applicant shall in no case be allowed to prove his residence, but the fact and duration of such residence must be otherwise made to appear to the satisfaction of the naturalizing court. (Sec. 2165, Rev. Stat.)

If, however, the circumstances of an individual case arising under the convention of 1870 indicate that the party may have acquired lawful citizenship through the father’s naturalization or otherwise after less than five years’ residence, it is proper for the effects of that convention that he be called upon to prove a completed five years’ residence in addition to the fact of citizenship. This not infrequently happens in the German States, with which we have conventions imposing the same dual conditions as are found in Article I of the Austro-Hungarian convention.

The certificates of naturalization inclosed with your note are returned as requested.

Trusting that the foregoing statements will meet the desires conveyed in your note, I avail, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill,
Acting Secretary.