Britain pressures U.S. to revoke citizenship of Indian activist
The US press often carried news of diplomatic issues in its headlines. This included references to matters of citizenship. In the early twentieth century, national and local newspapers in the United States inquired whether Asian immigrants were White and therefore eligible to naturalize as US citizens. The Black press also raised similar questions. For instance, in July 1913, one of the nation’s most influential Black weeklies, The Chicago Defender, asked: “Who is White?” referring to the eligibility of Asian immigrants to naturalize as US citizens on the basis of race. In addition to the question of eligibility for U.S. citizenship on the basis of race, diplomatic concerns related to the naturalization of Asian immigrants regularly appeared in the local press. In December 1908, the Corvallis Gazette narrated the story of Muhammad Abdul Rashid who acquired U.S. citizenship and returned to India to galvanize Indian troops against the British government. U.S. citizenship offered greater legal protections to Rashid compared to Indians with British subjecthood who were indefinitely imprisoned, physically assaulted, and fiscally penalized under draconian colonial laws. The British were very concerned that Indian immigrants returning to India could encourage Indian troops to rebel and destroy British property and take European lives, as some had in 1857-58. As a result, British officials pressured the U.S. to restrict the ability of Indian immigrants like Rashid to naturalize, hoping that limitations on their legal rights and mobility would undermine the threat they posed to the British empire.
This source is part of the Indian Immigrants and U.S. Citizenship in an Imperial Context teaching module.
United States Hears From Great Britain
OAC GRADUATE IS THE CAUSE
Mohammed Abdul Rashid Becomes, Naturalized Here, Then Engages in Revolt
International complications between the United States and Great Britain are likely to develop over the active part now being taken by Mohammed Abdul Rashid, in the threatened revolt of the Sepoys in India.
Mohammed Abdul Rashid is a graduate of OAC and was one of the prominent figures about the college. On June 12, 1908, he applied to the Circuit Court of Benton County to be naturalized as an American citizen and his petition was granted. Soon after securing this privilege he returned to his native land and at once began fomenting rebellion against the British government and has been one of the principal leaders in the revolt which appears to be spreading among all the Sepoys in India.
Great Britain has officially notified this government that Rashid defies the authorities in India, by virtue of his being an American citizen, and the United States, having possession of the facts, has taken immediate steps to annul the Hindoo’s certificate of naturalization. The Bureau of Naturalization at Washington and the United States District Attorney at Seattle have notified the course here to at once recover and annul the papers issues to him, but this is now impossible Mohammed is out of the country.
Legal steps will be taken to cancel the certificate and to declare the man a British subject but Rashid still has his papers and before the necessary action can be had he may, by his actions, involve this government in serious difficulties.
Under the new naturalization law of January 1, 1908, the practitioner at the time of making his declaration executes the same in triplicate, one copy being retained at the office of the county clerk, one sent to the U.S. Department of Naturalization at Washington and one delivered to declarant, but in this particular instance the former law was followed and the only certificate was given to Rashid. He now has it and seems to be using it to his own personal advantage.
In this connection the United States government has decided that Hindoos cannot become naturalized citizens of this country and two natives of India who recently declared their intentions at Albany to become naturalized, have been forced to surrender their declarations which have been cancelled.
Library of Congress, Chronicling America, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn93051660/1908-12-11/ed-1/seq-1/