Throughout the foundation of The United States, there have been many diverse individuals of varying cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. However, as they came these distinctions between people played a significant role in determining who they were and often represented who could acquire citizenship in the United States and who could not. Citizenship is of considerable significance in the United States because it implies who belongs to the United States, and who does not. Also, citizenship provided rights and privileges to individuals that allowed them to succeed across the country with little or no difficulty depending on who they were.
Citizenship has become a key component of the United States, though, as it has played a major role in the growth and rise of the country's standing. Yet with the laws and regulations of what constitutes a United States citizen is something that dates back over history and procedures that have already existed to help decide who may be identified as a citizen. In its early colonial years, the United States opened its borders and encouraged a diverse crowd of immigrants to come to the new land and have opportunities. Although, as times progressed and more diverse individuals began to come over, there were more barriers to overcome and prejudice against certain individuals. For these difficulties, the borders of the United States started to become more restrictive about who could enter and implement processes to regulate these difficulties. Some of the enforced processes that benefited the government of the United States was citizenship; by determining who could become a citizen, and who could not. As the development of the United States expanded and progressed, they established citizenship through a process of national identity in which they introduced the Naturalization Act in 1795. The Naturalization Act of 1795 granted legal citizenship to 'free white people' who retained exclusive American allegiance.
However, there were requirements, that one had to pass to be properly classified as a United States citizen. In David Gerber's 'American Immigration' it states, “The act stated that after five years of living in the United States, foreign residents could become citizens if they had given notice two years earlier of the intention to be naturalized; swore to have completed the period of legal residence; foreswore other and former allegiances, renounced all foreign titles, and took an oath of loyalty; and satisfied a court that they were of good character, believed in the principles of the American Constitution, and were disposed to make positive contributions to the community.” Such criteria tested individuals on their intent to become a citizen of the United States, to see if they were willing to give up their life and allegiance to another country (home country) and to dedicate it to the United States. This also meant that their loyalty contribution would make the United States stronger so they can prosper. Also, the United States government reminded the new citizens there are many opportunities in the United States if they do commit their loyalty, and gain citizenship. The reason the United States introduced The Naturalization Law was to ensure that a person applying for citizenship had a strong reputation and was willing to devote their allegiance and obey the laws and regulations in place. Citizenship also gave these citizens basic rights as set out in the Constitution. Citizenship has protected the United States by recognizing that citizens of good character wanted to offer themselves better opportunities, while also encouraging these citizens to influence the country with economic and military advances. However, as time went on and the Fourteenth Amendment was established, birthright citizenship became an American standard which also granted citizenship to individuals. The establishment of birthright citizenship made it easier for the United States federal government to recognize individuals as citizens and possess the same constitutional rights that a person applying for citizenship would receive.
On the other hand, United States citizenship was very limited to a small number of individuals. Other people such as Native Americans, indentured servants, slaves, free blacks and Asians were exempt from the Naturalization Act and Birthright Citizenship Act. However, there were exceptions with free blacks when it came to citizenship. Citizenship for free blacks was determined by states, this meant that free blacks were not recognized as citizens from a federal level, but only at a state level. Although prejudice was a major problem in the United States, many people wanted citizenship, so they could have the opportunity to be equal and have the same constitutional rights as everyone else. Such action the United States took to further discriminate came in 1882 when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress.
David Gerber writes, “Chinese exclusion and subsequent efforts began the evolution of American immigration law and policy, as the historian Mae Ngai observes, into an engine “for massive racial engineering” that sought to use state power to define the demographic and cultural character of the nation. A force accelerating the process was the particular nature of Chinese exclusion, as Congress crafted it. The law did not bar all Chinese immigration, only Chinese laborers. Merchants, students, the immediate family of American-born Chinese citizens, and Chinese American citizens returning from abroad were not barred.” When many Chinese immigrants started immigrating to the United States for hopes of better opportunities and a better life; they were eventually excluded from further immigration. The United States tried to represent itself in a manner that shows a plurality of whites, and to better represent the American way, but, when many Chinese immigrants immigrated this was an issue for the United States, so they passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. Many individuals like the Chinese endured a lot of discrimination since the time the United States was founded. These individuals only wanted the opportunity and the ability to better their lives and be as equal as a white man. They were, however, continuously ignored and 'non-existent' because they did not reflect the same values, character, and make-up of what it meant to be American, and this ultimately prevented them from obtaining citizenship in the United States.
In the long term, citizenship has had many ways of significantly changing the United States. This allowed them to build a unity of people who had a place they could officially call home and show their loyalty to a nation where they had a chance. However, there have been challenges in the citizenship process when people have not met 'certain criteria' but as time progressed, laws and regulations have changed drastically. Through fighting for what they believed was their right, these individuals faced several challenges, and eventually, they got it. All individuals who seek citizenship within the United States now have a chance because of the fight individuals have taken.