Mr. Hay to Mr. Merry.
Washington, October 25, 1899.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 326 of the 7th instant, requesting a decision as to the citizenship of Roberto J. J. Pinto, the particulars of whose case are given in the dispatch.
In reply I have to say that we can not do otherwise than support the claim of the young man to American citizenship.
He was born in the United States, and no principle is better settled than that birth in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the parents, confers American citizenship.
The right of election of nationality, which it is generally conceded a person born under such circumstances has, can not be exercised until he attains his majority. The father can not by any act of his alter the status conferred upon the son by his birth in this country. The United States circuit court in ex parte Chin King (35 Fed. Rep., 354) said:
In my judgment a father can not deprive his minor child of the status of American citizenship impressed upon it by the circumstances of its birth under the Constitution and within the jurisdiction of the United States. This status, once acquired, can only be lost or changed by the act of the party when arrived at majority, and the consent of the Government.
The young man is clearly entitled to a passport and protection as a citizen of the United States. Under article 9 of the treaty of 1851 between the United States and Costa Rica he is entitled to exemption “from all compulsory military service whatsover.”
I am, etc.,