War and Citizenship

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo granted full citizenship, but equal access to voting was not guaranteed for the new citizens. English language requirements and intimidation tactics suppressed the Latinx vote, similar to the experiences of  other cultural minority communities.

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Final Page of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The final page of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with signatures and seals.

 

Questions of Citizenship

Additional abuses were committed by white Americans because Mexicans were considered “foreigners.” Naturalized made citizens through legal process Mexicans experienced loss of lands through the hands of white Americans. Since the law and the language were not easily accessible to Mexican Americans and most could not hire attorneys to translate and advocate, they were often stripped of their land.  In fact, few lawyers were even willing to support their cases.

These were similar to the experiences of the American Indians   refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment, who were pushed out of their lands onto reservations.

Ricardo Rodriguez and Citizenship Rights

In 1896, Texas resident Ricardo Rodriguez was denied his citizenship application when the Board of Naturalization suggested that he had “indigenous traits” (physical features common among American Indians), which they argued made him unsuitable for citizenship because American Indians did not have citizenship rights  1884 Supreme Court case Elk v. Wilkins affirmed that American Indians were “subjects” of the United States, meaning that even though they had been born within the borders of the newly formed United States they did not have automatic citizenship.

Rodriguez eventually won and was granted citizenship when the judge concluded that he was not, in fact, American Indian, and that he had “practically illustrated and emphasized his attachment to the principles of the constitution.”

The case set a precedent for Mexican Americans; their “white” status gave them citizenship rights that were not extended to American Indians, Chinese, Japanese and others.