Justice Joseph Story—The Common Sense Behind a National Immigration Policy

Justice Joseph Story


Ought our immigration policy be haphazard, different in every state, indiscriminate in who we allow to enjoy the rights of citizenship?

Joseph Story in his 1833 legal classic, “Commentaries On the Constitution of United States,” answers:

There is great wisdom, therefore, in confiding to the national government the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States. It is of the deepest interest to the whole Union to know, who are entitled to enjoy the rights of citizens in each state, since they thereby, in effect, become entitled to the rights of citizens in all the states. If aliens might be admitted indiscriminately to enjoy all the rights of citizens at the will of a single state, the Union might itself be endangered by an influx of foreigners, hostile to its institutions, ignorant of its powers, and incapable of a due estimate of its privileges.

Common sense.

Source: Joseph Story. Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States, Vol 3, Ch 16, Power Over Naturalization and Bankruptcy, 1833.

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