File No. 894.4054/22
The Assistant Secretary of Labor to the Secretary of State
Washington, September 29, 1917.
Sir: Referring to recent correspondence regarding the recognition by the immigration officials, in the administration of the immigration law and particularly of the illiteracy test thereof, of the marriage of Japanese women to men of that race residing in this country, under the peculiar system of marriage in vogue in Japan, the Department desires to call your attention to a new phase of this subject which seems to require immediate and careful consideration.
It appears that the Japanese Government considers that persons born within the United States of parents who are nationals of Japan are citizens of the last named country; and said Government holds that such persons are subject to the laws of Japan at least to the extent that they are still considered as members of families and carried upon family records in the communities from which their parents originally came (and also they are liable to military service). In illustration, the Department might refer to two cases that recently arose in Hawaii.
One Hatsuki Goshi applied for admission at Honolulu on July 17, last, claiming to be the wife of one Shinichi Goshi, and having in her possession the usual documents regarding her identity, her marriage, and the granting of the permission, evidenced by passport, of the Japanese Government to her departing from the Empire. The man to whom she was destined testified that he is 23 years of age; that he was born in Hawaii and has never been in Japan; that his marriage to the applicant was registered by correspondence on October 28, 1916, the arrangement for the marriage having been made by his mother; that he has been arranging, by correspondence, during the past three years to be excused from military duty in Japan; and that he considers himself a citizen of the United States by virtue of the fact that he was born in Hawaii.
One Katsuyo Takata applied for admission at Honolulu on July 12, claiming to be the wife of one Kenichi Takata, and holding the usual documents. Kenichi Takata testified that he was born in Hawaii twenty-five years ago, and was married to applicant by correspondence in November, 1916. He was not questioned with respect to military service and volunteered no information on that point; nor did he assert whether or not he considered himself a citizen of the United States.[Page 874]
Of course, on the claims set up, both of the above-mentioned Japanese men are citizens of the United States, and, being also residents of this country, are subject to the laws of the United States and to the laws of no other country. It will be necessary for this Department to reach a conclusion as to whether or not in cases of this kind the marriage asserted shall be recognized and the woman admitted. While the Department has conceded that with regard to subjects of Japan the Japanese law, as explained to your Department by the Japanese Ambassador, authorizes and gives validity to marriages of the kind in question, the Department can hardly believe that it would be consistent or proper to make such a concession in cases in which one of the parties to the alleged marriage contract is not only a resident but a citizen of this country.
The theory of the Japanese law no doubt is that family and marriage regulations in operation in the Empire reach citizens thereof although at the time residing abroad; that in law, their domicile is that of the family or “house”. But it would seem to this Department that consistency on questions of citizenship demands that persons born to American citizenship shall not be permitted to maintain or to obtain the benefits of a foreign citizenship and at the same time retain and claim all the rights, privileges and immunities that attach to the “inestimable heritage” that has become theirs by the fact of their being born in this country. Moreover, it should not be overlooked that the foreign born wife of a United States citizen acquires the citizenship of her husband immediately that the marriage takes place.
Before issuing any instructions on this important matter, the Department would like to be advised with respect to your views.