Will the Supreme Court Defend Citizenship?

Will the Supreme Court Defend Citizenship?
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Very few Americans have heard of Afroyim v. Rusk, a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case on citizenship, but all Americans can perhaps be grateful for it. Most of the Court's landmark decisions are famous for their tangible effects, like dismantling racial segregation or legalizing abortion rights. Afroyim's impact can instead be felt by what hasn't happened: No natural-born Americans have been involuntarily stripped of their citizenship—and the protections it carries—since the ruling.

Naturalized Americans are also generally protected by Afroyim, with one notable exception: if they lied or misled a consular officer during the process to obtain their citizenship. That gap was the subject of contentious questioning by the justices recently in a case that could grant the Trump administration broad powers to strip naturalized Americans of their cherished status.

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