Talk:Afroyim v. Rusk

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Featured article Afroyim v. Rusk is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
Main Page trophy This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on February 20, 2014.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
January 2, 2011 Good article nominee Listed
June 6, 2012 Peer review Reviewed
December 25, 2012 Featured article candidate Promoted
Current status: Featured article

Other cases[edit]

I recommend making mention of Perez v. Brownell, 356 U.S. 44 (1958), an earlier Supreme Court ruling which was opposite to Afroyim (and which the Afroyim decision repudiated).

Also mention Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S. 252 (1980), which confirmed and expanded upon the Afroyim ruling. The "preponderance of evidence" standard for deciding whether a person's actions had shown an intent to give up US citizenship comes from the Terrazas decision. Vance v. Terrazas probably deserves an article of its own.

In the "Effect" section, mention that the statute calling for loss of US citizenship for voting in a foreign election — struck down by the Afroyim decision — was repealed by Congress in 1978 (Public Law 95-432). The "intent" requirement didn't get explicitly added to the loss-of-citizenship statute until 1986 (Pub.L. 99-653), and that was more directly a result of Terrazas than Afroyim.

Richwales 19:59, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

I've made the above additions. Richwales 16:33, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

Correspondence with museum[edit]

The site with one of Afroyim's paintings is a web copy of a book published in 2000 by the Museum of the City of New York. The book misstates the nature of Afroyim v. Rusk by saying the case "hinged on [Afroyim's] ability to convince the Court that he had never voted in Israel". I've been in contact with some people at the museum, and it's currently unclear whether the text on the web site will be corrected or not. In case it never gets fixed, I'm going to add a note to the article warning about the misstatement.

The MCNY person I've been corresponding with also mentioned that Afroyim reportedly told a reporter for the Staten Island Advance (a small weekly) in 1967 that he had not, in fact, ever voted in Israel. It would be interesting to track this point down further -- though it isn't strictly relevant to the court case, since the Supreme Court held that even taking Afroyim's having voted in Israel as a given, that still didn't give the US government a valid reason to revoke his citizenship.

Afroyim's obituary was reportedly published on May 20, 1984 — apparently in the Staten Island Advance.

Richwales 16:24, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

I finally realized, last night, that "Beys Afroyim" is Yiddish for "B. Ephraim" — presumably a derivation of his birth name, Ephraim Bernstein. Richwales 16:37, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

"Minority opinion" section is blank[edit]

That should be fixed. --zenohockey 17:00, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

Fixed. Richwales 16:33, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

Link to site with a painting by Afroyim[edit]

The article used to contain a reference to a site ( which talks about Afroyim's life as a painter. This link was recently deleted by someone who thought that it would be more appropriate in an article about Afroyim himself, rather than about his court case; also, that a comment made on the other site about Afroyim's case was factually incorrect (namely, a claim that the decision hinged on Afroyim's ability to convince the Supreme Court that had in fact never voted in Israel), even though the Wikipedia reference to the site included a disclaimer (which I added last April).

I would propose that this link should be put back in. First, I don't see any problem with a small amount of material about Afroyim (the man) in this article about Afroyim (the court case). Second, and maybe more importantly, I would suggest that if a widely held misconception (such as the idea that Afroyim was able to keep his US citizenship because he really hadn't voted in a foreign election after all) is out there on the net, it's better for Wikipedia to acknowledge the misconception — and say that it's a misconception — than to ignore it and then have people be confused when they run across it themselves.

If we don't put this link back in now (with its accompanying disclaimer), chances are someone will eventually find the site and, unaware of the current discussion, put it back in — probably without a disclaimer! — and we'll be back to where we were before I added the disclaimer in April 2006.


Richwales 21:53, 8 October 2006 (UTC)

As the one who originally put the link in, I fully support your argument. If there were a Wikipedia article devoted to Afroyim, I agree that that would be a better place to put the link to the paintings. But there isn't. Grover cleveland 23:52, 8 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm putting the link to Afroyim's painting back into the Afroyim v. Rusk page, for the reasons explained above. Richwales 00:28, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Rogers v. Bellei[edit]

I'm not a lawyer, but I just stumbled over Rogers v. Bellei 401 U.S. 815 (1971) which appears to have clarified, limited application of, or partially overturned Afroyim v. Rusk. If I've got that right, shouldn't it be mentioned in this article (or have I missed something which should have been obvious)? -- Boracay Bill (talk) 05:27, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

The facts were significantly different between these two cases. Rogers v. Bellei was distinguished from Afroyim v. Rusk because Mr. Bellei was born in Italy (to an Italian father and an American mother). This meant Bellei's US citizenship was statutory (resulting from an act of Congress dealing with foreign-born children of American parents), and not mandated by the 14th Amendment. Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that statutory loss of citizenship for such people, under certain circumstances, was OK. Afroyim, on the other hand, was naturalized in the US, so his US citizenship was protected by the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause. Richwales (talk) 05:45, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Hi Rich. I understand that in Bellei SCOTUS considered circumstances which they had not considered in Afroyim. My point is that the lead sentence of this article says flatly, "Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), was a United States Supreme Court decision that set an important legal precedent that a United States citizen cannot be deprived of American citizenship involuntarily." In Bellei, however, the Court drew a sharp distinction between two classes of US Citizens, those who are and those who are not "Fourteenth-Amendment-first-sentence" citizens—Bellei being one who is not, and therefore being one who (contrary to Afroyim) can be deprived of American citizenship involuntarily. Bellei, AFAICT, limits the application of Afroyim to those who are "Fourteenth-Amendment-first-sentence" citizens. It seems to me that this article on Afroyim ought to mention this and ought not to open with a flat statement which seems to contradict this. -- Boracay Bill (talk) 23:40, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Afroyim v. Rusk/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Racepacket (talk) 18:43, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

GA review (see here for criteria)
  1. It is reasonably well written.
    a (prose): b (MoS for lead, layout, word choice, fiction, and lists):
    Well done. Remove bold on case name in footnotes (an artifact of the citation template, beyond our control).
  2. It is factually accurate and verifiable.
    a (references): b (citations to reliable sources): c (OR):
  3. It is broad in its coverage.
    a (major aspects): b (focused):
    Explain in background section that § 401(e) of the Nationality Act of 1940 removes citizenship by voting in a foreign election, and that this case challenged the constitutionality of that law.
  4. It follows the neutral point of view policy.
    Fair representation without bias:
  5. It is stable.
    No edit wars, etc.:
    no edit wars.
  6. It is illustrated by images, where possible and appropriate.
    a (images are tagged and non-free images have fair use rationales): b (appropriate use with suitable captions):
  7. Overall:
    Placing article on hold.

Good changes. Thank you for your prompt attention, and excellent work. Racepacket (talk) 20:11, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

Making further improvements[edit]

I just did a major expansion of this article, with a view toward eventually getting it to the Featured Article level. I'm not done yet.

One change I made probably deserves explanation. Previously, the article said Afroyim v. Rusk "held that a person born or naturalized in the United States cannot be deprived of his or her citizenship involuntarily". In fact, the decision in this case held (more broadly) that no U.S. citizen could have their citizenship taken away involuntarily. The narrowing of the effect of Afroyim came four years later, when the Supreme Court held (in Rogers v. Bellei) that a person born abroad to an American parent did not owe his U.S. citizenship to the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause and could validly lose his citizenship for failing to satisfy a statutory U.S. residence requirement. So, the Afroyim v. Rusk article now properly explains that the case's holding talked about the rights of U.S. citizens in general, and that the limitation came later, in Rogers v. Bellei. I'm just mentioning this so no one thinks I overlooked this point in the course of my rewrite. — Richwales 05:38, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

Requested comments[edit]

I am responding to a request on my talkpage that I comment informally on the article, as part of the preparation for a possible FAC submission.

I have read through the article, which for the most part is impressive. I have listed a few minor points that can be easily fixed. The main issue that struck me after my reading was that a lot of the article was not really about Afroyim v. Rusk, but was focussed on the general issue of loss of citizenship. The background subsection "Loss of United States citizenship" seems to contain a good deal of information that does not relate to this specific case, with the result that my head was spinning a bit when I got to the case itself. The hearing before the Supreme Court is dealt with rather briefly; was the 5–4 decision made largely on the basis of Gordon's poor presentation? A lot of the "Subsequent developments" section departs some distance for the Afroyim case, and reads rather as a potted summary history of the American citizenship laws.

The article is interesting, and apart from difficulties arising from too much extraneous detail, quite easy to follow. However, I think you should consider ways in which the focus of the article could be shifted more towards the case in point. A few small points for consideration:

  • By "painter", do you mean artist or house-painter?
  • Afroyim moved to Israel "and presumably became a citizen of that country". I see that the "Law of return" is invoked under See also, but presumably that law had effect here.
  • The parenthetical words "which mandated revocation of U.S. citizenship for voting in a political election in a foreign state" are superfluous; this has just been explained.
  • Other possible unnecessary wording in: "Perez v. Brownell had been correctly decided and should not be repudiated" - two phrases meaning the same thing.
  • Why are the images of Black and Harlan so tiny?

That's all I have for the moment. When I have a bit more time I'll be able to give it a more thorough review. Brianboulton (talk) 00:38, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

Thanks very much for the above feedback.
My understanding is that a Featured Article needs to be comprehensive, neglecting no major facts or details, and placing the subject in context; see WP:WIAFA criterion 1(b). At the same time, of course, a FA needs to stay focussed on the main topic, without going into unnecessary detail; see criterion 4. I admit that some of the existing background material may be unnecessary, and I'll go over the current text again to see what sorts of changes may be called for in order to provide the right amount of context for the reader.
Afroyim was, of course, the kind of "painter" who creates works of art using paint. You're right — "painter" is ambiguous, but so is "artist" — though if I must choose between these two, "artist" may be a better choice. I'm open to any other wording suggestions.
The question of whether Afroyim had acquired Israeli citizenship (via the Law of Return or in any other way) did not, in fact, appear to play a significant role in the case. The dissent said, in a footnote, that "although the issue was not argued at any stage of these proceedings, it was assumed by the District Court that [Afroyim] 'has acquired Israeli citizenship.'" The stated reason why Afroyim's US citizenship was called into question here was not because he had become a citizen of Israel, but because he had voted in an Israeli election. In the absen[ of anything in any source explicitly citing the Law of Return — but recognizing at the same time that many readers will wonder about this point and will expect it to be mentioned in some way — I felt the only thing I could really do was to mention the Law of Return in the "See also" section. I'll take another look at my sources and see if anything more can be found on this point.
The reason for the Supreme Court's changing its mind and overruling Perez v. Brownell was, as I understand, primarily a matter of the composition of the Court having changed between 1958 and 1967 (and Justice Brennan changing his thinking on the subject between the two cases) — thus allowing Chief Justice Warren's dissent in Perez to become the majority view. You make a very good point, though — as the text currently stands, one could easily draw a (wrong) conclusion that the government counsel's slip-up played much more of a role than it probably did.
I really didn't think the photos of Justices Black and Harlan were that tiny, but I'll try making them a bit larger and see what you (and others) think.
Thanks again for your helpful comments. — Richwales 03:21, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
This edit, tweaking image sizes, raised my eyebrows. Users have a variety of display resolution settings, of course, and an image size in pixels which seems small for one user might seem large for a different user. I see that a guideline on this at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Images#Forced image size only speaks specifically to fixed pixel sizes larger than the 220px default but does say, "a fixed size can be specified in the form |XXXpx, where XXX is replaced by a number of pixels, although this should be avoided where possible, since it overrides the users default." (emphasis added). Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Accessibility used to say that all articles should look acceptable at 800x600 resolution without excessive horizontal scrolling, but this April 2011 edit changed that to 1024x768. Wikipedia:Image use policy#Displayed image size says, "Images beside the text should generally use a caption and the 'thumb' (thumbnail) option; the default results in a display 220 pixels wide (170 pixels if the 'upright' option is used, 220 pixels for upright=1.0), except for those logged-in users who have set a different default in their user preferences. In general, do not define the size of an image unless there is a good reason to do so [...]." (see also Help:Visual file markup/upright). I've observed that hardcoded pixel values for images are common in practice. I haven't changed any hardcoded image sizes in the article. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 04:54, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
OK, have another look now. I've changed them all (replacing the explicit width with "upright", except for the last image, where I simply took the width out). In the past, I've understood the style guidelines about thumbnail sizes to primarily discourage the practice of forcing a large thumbnail — and I was trying to make the pictures smaller. But the "upright" option on the portrait-mode images seems to me to work OK, so I'll change my tune on this. — Richwales 05:49, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
The cases section (Which reads like a See also section that's seen in many case articles.) repeated links that were already in the article. Most multiple times. The article is over linked, Cases don't need to be linked to both in a sentence, then in a citation for the sentence. Entries were in the cases section that were already being used as inline citations. See WP:See also, WP:OVERLINK, and WP:ELRC....William 23:11, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
A few comments on re- reading the article.
  • In the Loss of United States citizenship section, I do not think the link to voting is needed
  • Refs need to follow punctuation if possible (not precede it). See the sentence starting " In 1950, he moved ..." in the Beys Afroyim section
  • It might help to say where he was living on his return to the us -assume NewYork as his case was heard in United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • The whole respondent thing took me a bit to get - is there any way to make it clearer that the case is named v. rusk because he was Secretary of State but he did not actually appear in the Supreme Court for the proceedings?
  • i do not think current and the year are both needed in "Charles Gordon was the current general counsel for the INS in 1967." (just 1967 would be ok)
  • Since the year is given, is "eventually" needed in "The statute calling for loss of U.S. citizenship for voting in a foreign election, which the Supreme Court invalidated in Afroyim v. Rusk, was eventually repealed by Congress in 1978.[58]"
  • it seems odd that there is only paragraph on Ennis' successful argument before the court
  • modern cases always seem to list which justices voted for which side, especially in a 5-4 case
  • what about "... Was an artist who specialized in painting"?
Hope this helps - I am using a tablet computer and typing is not easy sorry , Ruhrfisch ><>°° 12:42, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
I believe I have addressed most of the above concerns now. Regarding the "artist" vs. "painter" thing, I'm trying to handle this by adding some more details about Afroyim's career, making it clear he was a "painter" type of artist.
I'll need to go through my sources (primarily the Spiro paper) for more tidbits about the oral arguments. I'll also need to come up with a better way to describe what Rusk's role as "respondent" in the case was — modern civil actions involving the U.S. government routinely name a relevant government official as the official party to the dispute (in this case, the Secretary of State, since the State Department is responsible for handling cases alleging loss of U.S. citizenship). If we already have an accepted way of describing this in Wikipedia articles without descending too far into OR verbiage, I'm interested in hearing about it.
My source material does not, in fact, say when (or even if) Afroyim returned to the United States before the final resolution of his case. Indeed, Spiro (p. 154) says that "Afroyim was, moreover, a more attractive petitioner than his counterparts in other expatriation cases; he was not deploying a claim to citizenship as a defense to deportation" — a statement which suggests (but admittedly does not explicitly state) that he may not in fact have returned to the US prior to his case being heard. A possible explanation (again, speculative and not usable here) for why Afroyim's case was initially heard in New York City might be that this is where his naturalization had been handled in 1926. Before we add anything more to the article about this point, I believe we need a more explicit source; I'll look more and see if I can find one. — Richwales 19:06, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Ah. One of my sources (a 1966 Los Angeles Times story) does say that Afroyim had been granted a visitor's visa "last year" (i.e., in 1965), and that he was living in New York City pending the outcome of his case. I've added text to this effect to the article. The source does not say this was the reason why his lawsuit had been filed in NYC, so I'm still not going to say anything about that. — Richwales 21:26, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Thanks - that takes care of all my concerns. Please let me know when this is at FAC. Ruhrfisch ><>°° 03:11, 27 November 2012 (UTC)

Place of birth[edit]

I haven't made any edits to this part but I will raise it here first.

The sources. An obituary is not a WP:RS. Another source comes from which is behind a paywall and I'm familar with WP:PAYWALL but what kind of naturalization record are we talking about? Is it an official document? My wife is a naturalized citizen but I don't think anywhere but the country of her birth(Philippines) is mentioned. Documents do however change. Anyone have any thoughts? — Preceding unsigned comment added by WilliamJE (talkcontribs) 15:43, 24 November 2012 (UTC)

Regarding the obituary, you make a reasonable point. I've removed references to the obituary (for everything except his death). I've also removed a reference to the Social Security Death Index, for the same reason.
The naturalization record in this case is an official U.S. government document, which I downloaded from (I have a subscription) and uploaded to Commons (as an official U.S. government document, it is in the public domain). This Commons image already exists in the article (see the second image). To lessen confusion over the accessibility of this document, I'll replace the link in the source cite with a link to the Commons image. This document gives Afroyim's birthplace as "Riga, Russia". (There is, as far as I'm aware, only one "Riga", and it's in Latvia, but Latvia was part of the Russian Empire in the late 1800s, so a reference to "Riga, Russia" at this time is plausible.) Perhaps a government clerk, unfamiliar with the Polish town of Ryki, assumed Afroyim's birthplace was really Riga; this seems to me to be the best explanation, given that all other available sources (regardless of reliability) say Afroyim was born in Poland, but obviously I can't include my own private speculations in the article.
In my opinion, the 1893 birth date must be mentioned (even if the sources are not as good as we might prefer), since the court cases all cite this date. The 1898 birth date should also be mentioned, since it is in the official naturalization record that is being included in the article anyway. I've removed the 1892 and 1894 birth dates since, as I've already said, the sources for these are less reliable and have been removed. Why there is such a discrepancy in what the various sources say about Afroyim's birth date, I really can't say, but all we can do is cite the available sources and admit that they don't agree with one another. A copy of an official letter confirming Afroyim's loss of U.S. nationality was attached to the naturalization record, so the likelihood of there being more than one "Ephraim Bernstein, a.k.a. Beys Afroyim" (and of info on multiple people being improperly combined per WP:FRANKENSTEIN) — already vanishingly small — is, IMO, totally nonexistent here.
I'm going to add another source, BTW — a statement from my main narrative source (a paper by Peter Spiro), in which he says Afroyim was born in 1893 in Riki [sic], Poland. These sources are (I admit) not 100% reliable, but we simply need to use what is available and move on. — Richwales 18:10, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
No problem and I agree with what you did. I mentioned my concerns here because I thought some of the parts about his birth needed to be fixed or cleared up and I wasn't sure as how to proceed....William 18:35, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
For what little it may be worth, I've been in touch with Afroyim's son (the baby in the photo in the article), and he says he's always understood his father was born in 1893 in Ryki, Poland. He didn't have any inside information that might explain all the discrepancies. Of course, our rules on verifiability and reliable sources don't permit me to cite personal correspondence of this sort, so all I can do in the article is report what is said in the sources we are able to use. — Richwales 22:33, 26 November 2012 (UTC)

Who'd Have Guessed?[edit]

So in Perez v Brownell a hispanic loses their citizenship but here an Israeli jew got to keep theirs? Knock me down with a feather. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:05, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

Bad introduction[edit]

The introduction doesn't explain *why* the government attempt to revoke citizenship. It just says, this happened, then that happened.

The U.S. government had attempted to revoke the citizenship of Beys Afroyim, a Polish-born man, because he had cast a vote in an Israeli election after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Without repeating or explaining the government's argument, this is a useless history. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Matt me (talkcontribs) 23:43, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

The revocation of Afroyim's US citizenship happened because of a provision of the law at the time (the Nationality Act of 1940) which decreed automatic loss of US nationality for voting in a foreign election. This fact can certainly be added to the lead, provided it can be done in a very brief way (in keeping with the high-level summary nature of a lead section). — Richwales (no relation to Jimbo) 02:42, 21 February 2014 (UTC)
I added a short explanation of the above to the lead section of the article. — Richwales (no relation to Jimbo) 04:28, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

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