Naturalization Act of 1906
The Naturalization Act of 1906, an act of the United States Congress signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt that revised the law from 1870 and required immigrants to learn English in order to become naturalized citizens.
The bill passed on June 29, 1906, and took effect September 27, 1906. Eventually replaced by the Nationality Act of 1940. Modified by the Immigration Act of 1990.
The legislation established the federal government as the arbiter of naturalization policy. It created the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, which provided for the first uniform naturalization laws in the country.
Prior to 1906, an alien could be naturalized in any U.S. “court of record.” State-level naturalization courts managed proceedings with varying standards across the country.After September 26, 1906, naturalization could only be done in courts having a seal and a clerk, and exerting universal competence.
Since 1802, states determined there own procedures for the American naturalization process. State level courts were responsible for cases relating to naturalization. The standards across all the various states were often unique and inconsistent.
The 1906 legislation that established a uniform standard procedure was a direct reaction to the inconsistencies across the United States. Federal officials also distrusted state-level judges to handle the process properly. The federal government believed county judges were manipulating the naturalization process for their own electoral benefit.
Another factor leading to its passage, presidential administration pressure led to the approval at that time. The Roosevelt administration assembled a commission to examine the naturalization laws of the time, and to make recommendations on how to avoid the abuses that led to inappropriate granting of citizenship.
The lack of regulatory oversight regarding naturalization of foreigners was a topic that commanded concern for the Roosevelt administration. This commission went on to suggest an English literacy requirement for the naturalization of American citizens. Additionally, the commission “recommended classifying and summarizing naturalization laws into a code (re-codification), the creation of a federal agency to oversee naturalization procedures, and standard forms for all U.S. naturalization, including a form for the oath of allegiance.”