Recently on the "Obtaining Italian Dual Citizenship" Facebook group, I came across a very interesting post by a woman seeking Italian dual citizenship who, at first glance, appeared to be ineligible. However, when it comes to Italian dual citizenship things are not always as they seem.
Let's examine her case, talk about a very interesting and vital law (the 1922 Cable Act) for those seeking dual Italian citizenship through female lines, and detail the implications of female Italian ancestors' naturalizing along with their husbands.
The Historical Context:
During the time that Jane Doe's grandfather naturalized, there were many discriminatory immigration laws against women in place. One of them was the Expatriation Act of 1907. This law provided, among other things, for loss of citizenship of foreign women marrying foreign men naturalizing as American citizens. That is to say, any foreign woman married to a foreign man becoming an American automatically became an American with him, regardless of whether or not she wanted to. This is relevant for Jane Doe, and we'll come back to it. It is worth mentioning that besides discriminating against foreign women, the Expatriation Act also discriminated against women from America: any US woman could lose her citizenship by marrying a foreign man since under the law, a woman assumed the citizenship of her husband.
The aim of these provisions was to prevent cases of multiple nationality among women. Nevertheless, these resulted in significant protests by members of the women's suffrage movement. Just two years after women gained the right to vote, the Expatriation Act of 1907 was repealed by the Cable Act of 1922. Despite remedying some of the discrimination of the Expatriation Act, the Cable Act itself continued to provide for the loss of citizenship by American women who married "aliens ineligible for citizenship,", namely Asians.
In 2013, Daniel Swalm, the grandson of a Minnesota woman who had lost U.S. citizenship under Section 3 of the Expatriation Act of 1907 for marrying a Swedish immigrant and died without regaining her citizenship, began lobbying Congress to posthumously restore citizenship to women like his grandmother. He contacted his senator Al Franken, who in 2014 sponsored a resolution (S.Res. 402) expressing regret for the passage of the 1907 Act. The resolution passed the Senate on May 14.
The Cable Act of 1922:
Named for named for Ohio representative John L. Cable who proposed the legislation, the Cable Act of 1922 (ch. 411, 42 Stat. 1021, aka the "Married Women’s Independent Nationality Act") was a United States federal law that reversed former immigration laws regarding marriage. It is also known as the Married Women's Citizenship Act or the Women's Citizenship Act. The law repealed sections 3 and 4 of the Expatriation Act of 1907 as mentioned above.
In other words, before this date, women were automatically naturalized along with their husbands. The Cable Act effectively put a stop to women automatically assuming their husbands' citizenship.
Why this matters for Jane Doe:
Until September 22, 1922, women were automatically naturalized along with their husbands. This had to be neither a voluntary nor conscious act on behalf of the woman--sometimes it was as simple as a husband listing his wife on his Petition for Naturalizing and signing off with his name.
For the purposes of loss of Italian citizenship, this non-voluntary naturalization does not hold up in Italian courts. This means that all those who have a case similar to that of Jane Doe are eligible through a female ancestor who was automatically naturalized a US citizen by her husband's naturalization. The one caveat is that they must apply through the Italian courts (which can also take care of any pre-1948 citizenship cases--I will discuss those in a later blog post).
In the end, Jane Doe is eligible through her involuntarily naturalized grandmother, because her naturalization was not intentional. The Italian courts can be petitioned to make Jane Doe's claim to Italian dual citizenship. In the the eyes of the Italian law, it can be proven that Jane Doe's grandmother was not voluntarily naturalized and thus never gave up her right to Italian citizenship.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a Cable Act path to Italian citizenship? Let me know in the comments below.
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