Timeline: The Road to Citizenship Rights 1790-1946



1700’s: Records indicate the sporadic arrival of a few men from India.

1790: Naturalization Act of 1790

The U.S. adopts uniform rules that allow “free, white persons” to apply for citizenship after two years as residents.

1868: The 14th amendment allows citizenship for African Americans.

1882: Chinese Exclusion Act

The first federal immigration law, the act barred immigration from China for 10 years and denied citizenship to Chinese in the U.S.

1899-1902: Famine in India; people emigrate to other parts of the world, including many thousands to America.

1900-1910: More than 7,000 farmers from Punjab, mostly Sikh, arrive in the U.S. and Canada in the first significant wave of Indian immigration.

1906: Knowledge of English becomes a requirement for naturalization.

1907: Anti-Indian sentiment turns violent. Rioting white mobs drive Indian workers from their homes in Washington and California.

1907: “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between U. S. and Japan restricts Japanese laborers from emigrating to U.S.

1910:   U.S. vs Balsara

The U.S. Supreme Court rules Indians are eligible for citizenship because they are “Caucasian” like the “whites.”

1913: Alien Land Law in California forbids aliens ineligible for citizenship from owning land.

1917: Barred Zone Act

Immigration Act establishes a “barred zone” to prevent immigrants from India and other parts of Asia from entering the United States. Literacy test required for immigrants over age 16 seeking U.S. citizenship.

1918: Right to naturalize is granted to Asians who have served in the military in World War 1. This Act resolved the conflict between the right to expedited naturalization for military servicemen granted by the Civil War statute, and subsequent naturalization acts that limited citizenship eligibility to whites.

1922: Cable Act strips the U.S. citizenship of women married to aliens ineligible for citizenship.

1923: U. S. v Bhagat Singh Thind

In a landmark dramatic reversal, the Supreme Court denies Bhagat Singh Thind citizenship because, though “Caucasian,” he is not “white.”

1923-1926: Citizenship of 45 naturalized Indian citizens rescinded.

1924: Immigration Act of 1924 establishes discriminatory immigration quotas and prohibits immigration of aliens ineligible for citizenship, including Asians.

1936 Cable act repealed.

1943: Chinese Exclusion Law repealed.

As part of efforts to promote unity among the Allied powers, the law is repealed and 105 Chinese immigrants are allowed to enter each year.

1946, July 2: Luce-Celler Act grants naturalization rights to Indians and Filipinos.

The act also provided for a yearly quota of 100 immigrants from each country. The need for Indian cooperation and support for the Allies in World War II spurred legislation in favor of the Indian cause.

The Road to Citizenship Rights: A Chronology 1790-1946.

RETURN TO MAIN GALLERY: The Struggle for Citizenship