Contradicting the logic behind its ruling in Ozawa v. U.S., the Supreme Court found that Bhagat Singh Thind was also ineligible for citizenship even though as an Asian Indian, he would have been categorized as Aryan or caucasian, according the the prevailing racial science of the time. Although Thindwas racially white, the Supreme Court found that he would not be considered “white” in the eyes of the “common man,” despite scientific race categories, and was therefore also ineligible for citizenship. The Thind decision led to the denaturalization of about fifty Asian Indian Americans who had earlier successfully applied for and received U.S. citizenship.
United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind
Argued January 11, 12, 1923
Decided February 19, 1923
261 U. S. 214
1. A high caste Hindu, of full Indian blood, born at Amrit Sar, Punjab, India, is not a “white person” within the meaning of [The Nationality Act of 1790] . . .
2. “Free white persons” . . . are words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word “Caucasian” only as that word is popularly understood . . .
3. The action of Congress in excluding from admission to this country all natives of Asia within designated limits, including all of India, is evidence of a like attitude toward naturalization of Asians within those limits.
Questions certified by the circuit court of appeals, arising upon an appeal to that court from a decree of the district court dismissing, on motion, a bill brought by the United, states to cancel a certificate of naturalization. . .
The words of familiar speech, which were used by the original framers of the law, were intended to include only the type of man whom they knew as white. The immigration of that day was almost exclusively from the British Isles and Northwestern Europe, whence they and their forebears had come. When they extended the privilege of American citizenship to “any alien being a free white person,” it was these immigrants — bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh — and their kind whom they must have had affirmatively in mind. The succeeding years brought immigrants from Eastern, Southern and Middle Europe, among them the Slavs and the dark-eyed, swarthy people of Alpine and Mediterranean stock, and these were received as unquestionably akin to those already here and readily amalgamated with them. It was the descendants of these, and other immigrants of like origin, who constituted the white population of the country when, reenacting the naturalization test of 1790, was adopted, and, there is no reason to doubt, with like intent and meaning.