v BHAGAT SINGH THIND, 261 U.S. 204 (1923)
Bhagat Singh Thind was an early South Asian Sikh immigrant to
the United States. He was also a defendant in the landmark Supreme
Court decision that would result in the exclusion of all Asians
from obtaining naturalized citizenship. Up to 1923, the racial
classification of South Asians was not completely clear. Prior
to 1923, South Asians were routinely allowed to become naturalized
U.S. citizens. However after the 1917 immigration law that effectively
excluded all Asians (with the exception of a few Filipinos) from
migrating to the United States, workers in the naturalization
office began questioning the status of East Indians - were they
Asian or Caucasian? A light skin high caste Indian certainly looked
more like a European than an East Asian and any one classified
as being free and "white" was allowed to be naturalized. Could
a person of a group that was now being excluded from immigrating
to the U.S. be allowed to become a citizen? This was the dilemma
facing the courts as Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind's case moved from
the lower courts to the Supreme Court.
a U.C. Berkeley graduate and US Army World War 1 veteran, probably
never could have anticipated that becoming American would put
him through such difficult trials. Less than a year after his
service in the army, on November 18, 1920, Thind was granted citizenship
by the Oregon District Court. Almost three years later on July
25th 1923, Chief Justice (and former US President) William Taft
witnessed and gave orders to the Ninth Circuit Court to revoke
Thind's citizenship certificate.
here to read the entire Supreme Court Decision on US vs. Bhagat
Dr. Thind's United State Supreme Court loss effectively resulted
in all East Indians being grouped together with the other discriminated
classes of Asians. The doors of U.S. citizenship had finally closed
to all Asian immigrants and would last for the next 23 years.
article above was taken from a article written by Leonard Chan
entitled "East Indians are Asian Too (1923) written for The AACP
Newsletter, dated April 2004. It should be noted that many people
in the United States realized how badly Dr. Thind was treated
by the Supreme Court noting that he was a US Veteran and in addition
to being turned down for being an East Indian, that under public
pressure, in 1935 the 74th Congress finally passed a law allowing
citizenship to US veterans, even those from the 'barred zones'.
Doctor Thind was naturalized for the third time in 1936 and given
his long overdue naturalization rights.