AFROYIM v. RUSK

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
456
Petitioner 
Afroyim
Respondent 
Rusk
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

After immigrating to the United States from Poland in 1912, Beys Afroyim became a naturalized American citizen in 1926. In 1950, Afroyim went to Israel where he voted in that country's 1951 governmental elections. In 1960, Afroyim applied for renewal a of his American passport. The State Department informed him that he had forfeited his American citizenship by virtue of Section 401(e) of the 1940 Nationality Act which stipulates that citizens of the United States shall "lose" their citizenship upon voting in a foreign state's political elections. Afroyim challenged the constitutionality of Section 401(e). On appeal from a district court's summary judgment favoring Secretary of State Dean Rusk, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted Afroyim certiorari.

Question 

Does Section 401(e) of the 1940 Nationality Act, revoking U.S. citizenship to persons who vote in other countries' elections, violate either the Fifth Amendment right to Due Process or the Fourteenth Amendment, under which naturalized citizens are granted national citizenship?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Afroyim, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Citizenship Clause

Yes. In a 5-to-4 decision, overruling Perez v. Brownell (356 US 44), the Court held that Congress has no general power to revoke American citizenship without consent. Noting the special bond between Americans and their government, a bond that protects every citizen against all manner of destruction of their rights, the Court held that only citizens themselves may voluntarily relinquish their citizenship. This sacred principle applies equally to natural and naturalized citizens. As such, Section 401(e) violated both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Cite this Page
AFROYIM v. RUSK. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 21 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1966/1966_456>.
AFROYIM v. RUSK, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1966/1966_456 (last visited October 21, 2014).
"AFROYIM v. RUSK," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 21, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1966/1966_456.