Historical / News

The Founding Fathers on U.S. Citizenship

Elizabeth F. Cohen, author and associate professor at Syracuse University seeks to answer the question “Who deserves to be a U.S. citizen?” in her recent Washington Post Op-ed piece.

To answer this question, Ms. Cohen seeks advice from America’s Founding Fathers.  Her answer: “People who immigrated and spent years building lives in this country deserved citizenship.” She supports her conclusion by citing such sources as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as well as contemporary court cases, which, in her formulation suggest a historical formula for U.S. citizenship: time + residence + good moral character = citizenship.

To read Ms. Cohen’s piece in its entirety, please follow this link:


Whether or not you agree with Ms. Cohen’s conclusion (and I think there is sufficient ground to be suspicious), we all certainly stand to benefit from consulting with the architects of our government.  Furthermore, though the U.S. Constitution says very little on immigration, it is very likely that 20 year visa backlogs were probably not the desiderata of the Founders’ granting Congress the power “to establish a uniform rule of Naturalization” (Article 1, Section 8).

-Jacob Wolf (jwolf@webberlaw.com)

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