The United States Constitution of 1787 contains 22 references to “citizen” or “citizens” but never defines the term or specifies the citizen’s duties. The founders empowered Congress to enact a uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States and established citizenship requirements for persons elected as president, senator, and representative, but said nothing further about the meaning of citizenship. Except in very few cases, the Constitution does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens in the enjoyment of rights set forth in the document.

James Madison described several debates on citizenship in his Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787. By and large, they reveal that the framers were reluctant to adopt strict standards for citizenship, such as long residence requirements, because they feared that such rules might discourage the immigration from Europe needed to populate America. Later controversies up to and through the Civil War centered on who was eligible to become a citizen, not on the rights or responsibilities of citizenship. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), addressed the question of eligibility but said nothing about the broader meaning of citizenship.

Yet the founders were unanimous in thinking that citizenship

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