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Becoming a Citizen:
How does a person become a citizen of
the United States?
What is Civics?
Citizens
Definition: Members
of a community who
owe loyalty to a
government and, in
turn, are entitled to
the protection of that
government
Civics
Definition: The study
of the duties and
rights of citizens
The Founding Fathers of the United States
believed strongly in the value of civics
How can YOU stay informed?
Roots of Citizenship
• Dates back 2,500
years to ancient
Greece and Rome
• Gave people legal
rights and allowed
them to take part in
government
– Property-owning men
only!
– Paid taxes
– Served in the military
Revolutionary Thinkers
• 1700s – Prior to the
Revolutionary War,
America and France
tweaked the “ancient”
definitions of democracy
– Defined citizens as “people
belonging to a nation”
– The power of the
government comes directly
from the people being
governed
Limitations to Citizenship
• Originally limited to
white men only
• African Americans
legalized as citizens
by the Fourteenth
Amendment in 1868
Dred Scott v. Sandford
• Before the Civil War, Americans were
asking: Are African Americans citizens of
the United States? May Congress prohibit
enslavement of African Americans in U.S.
territories?
• Case study p. 61
Reversing Limits
Women gained the right to
vote in 1920 with the
Nineteenth Amendment
The 1924 Indian Citizenship
Act gave American Indians
the right to legal citizenship
Natural-Born Citizens
• Any person born in the 50 states or the
District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)
• Children born on American soil to people
who are not U.S. citizens
• Any person born in an American territory
– Puerto Rico
– U.S. military bases (overseas)
Special Circumstances
• A person born in another country can
claim U.S. citizenship if:
– Both parents are U.S. citizens
– One parent is a U.S. citizen who has lived in
the United States
• Dual Citizenship
– A U.S. citizen born in another country may
hold dual citizenship of both the U.S. and the
country in which he/she was born
Naturalized Citizens
• Naturalization – the legal
process of obtaining
citizenship
– More than 40% of
immigrants have become
naturalized citizens
• Requirements:
– Must be 18 or older
– Must have been a lawful
permanent resident for at
least 5 years
– Must be able to read, write,
and speak English
– Must be of good moral
character
– Must show an
understanding of U.S.
civics
– Must complete application
process and pass an exam
Losing Citizenship
• Expatriation
– Someone who gives his/her allegiance to a
foreign country
• Denaturalization
– Naturalized citizens who are found to have
lied on their citizenship application
• Being convicted of certain crimes
– Treason, rebellion, trying to overthrow the
government
Foreign-Born Residents
• Aliens – foreign-born residents who have
not been naturalized
– Legal Aliens
• Resident alien – legal immigrant who permanently
lives in the U.S.
• Nonresident alien – someone who expects to stay
in the U.S. for a short, specified period of time
• May own property, attend public schools, pay
taxes, receive services, and hold jobs
• Can NOT vote, serve on juries, or run for political
office
Refugees
• A refugee is someone who flees his/her
country to escape danger
– Persecution by the government
• Political refugee
• Granted protection upon proof of danger
– Natural disaster
– War
Illegal Aliens
• U.S. limits legal immigrants to 1 million
each year
– Relatives of U.S. citizens have highest priority
– Also ranked by job skill supply & demand
• Each year, 1 million more enter the U.S.
illegally!
– Some attempted legally but were refused
– Some stay longer than permits allow
– Others cross borders illegally
Results?
• Illegal aliens can be arrested and deported
back to home country
• More than 12 million are living in the U.S.
illegally today