Haney Lopez, WHITE BY LAW, further discussion and reading references on In re Rodriguez (1897)

White By Law, p. 242. Notes to Chapter 3.

35. In re Rodriguez, 81 F. 337, 349 (W.D. Tex. 1897).

36. Id. at 354. Despite the admission of Rodriguez to citizenship, Mexicans in the Southwest suffered considerable legal repression in the decades after the U.S. conquest of that region. See generally RODOLFO ACUñA, OCCUPIED AMERICA: A HISTORY OF CHICANOS (3rd. ed. 1988). The history of legal resistance to such repression is examined in George Martínez, Legal Indeterminacy, Judicial Discretion and the Mexican-American Litigation Experience: 1930-1980, 27 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 555 (1994).

37. The Supreme Court subsequently drew into question the holding in Rodriguez. Morrison v. California, 291 U.S. 82, 95 n.5 (1933). The Court wrote: “Whether a person of [Mexican] descent may be naturalized in the United States is still an unsettled question. The subject was considered in Matter of Rodriguez, but not all that was there said is consistent with later decisions of this court.” For a commentator’s criticism of Rodriguez on the grounds that Mexicans are not “white persons,” see Gold, supra, at 499-501.

Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 242.

In re Rodriguez and “the favorable ruling for Rodriguez even though the court did not believe him to be White” (Haney López)

In re Rodriguez. Nach Haney López, court rules RR non-white but eligible anyway (?). Rodriguez as exception in early cases, decision treaty-driven. WBL 61.

Rationalizing Race: The Early Cases

Between 1878 and 1909, courts heard twelve prerequisite cases, rejecting the applicants’ claims in eleven of them. The courts barred the naturalization of applicants from China, Japan, Burma, and Hawaii, as well as that of two mixed-race applicants. Given the virulent anti-Asian prejudice of the times, these results are not surprising. In the one case during this period in which the petitioner did prevail, In re Rodriguez, a federal court in Texas in 1897 admitted to citizenship the “pure-blooded Mexican” applicant, but remarked that “[i]f the strict scientific classification of the anthropologist should be adopted, he would probably not be classed as white.”[35] the court allowed the applicant to naturalize on the basis of a series of treatise conferring citizenship on Spaniards and Mexicans in the wake of U.S. expansion into Florida and the Southwest.[36] Rodriguez was thus admitted despite the court’s belief that he was not White.[37] As the exception, Rodriguez proves the rule. In this initial period, courts virtually always opposed claims of Whiteness.

These early prerequisite cases are important, however, not in the results they reached, but because of the rationales offered by the courts in making racial assignments. The task of deciding who was White may at first glance [62] seem a simple one. However, the evidence suggests otherwise: the favorable ruling for Rodriguez even though the court did not believe him to be White; the tentativeness of the court in Ah Yup; and the naturalization of some Chinese such as Gee Hop even in the face the [sic] “white person” bar….

Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 61ff.
  1. [35]In re Rodriguez, 81 F. 337, 349 (W.D.Tex. 1897).
  2. [36]Id. at 354. Despite the admission of Rodriguez to citizenship, Mexicans in the Southwest suffered considerable legal repression in the decades after the U.S. conquest of that region. See generally RODOLFO ACUÑA, OCCUPIED AMERICA: A HISTORY OF CHICANOS (3rd. ed. 1988). The history of legal resistance to such repression is examined in George Martínez, Legal Indeterminacy, Judicial Discretion and the Mexican-American Litigation Experience: 1930-1980, 27 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 555 (1994).
  3. [37]The Supreme Court subsequently drew into question the holding in Rodriguez. Morrison v. California, 291 U.S. 82, 95 n.5 (1933). The Court wrote: “Whether a person of [Mexican] descent may be naturalized in the United States is still an unsettled question. The subject was considered in Matter of Rodriguez, but not all that was there said is consistent with later decisions of this court.” For a commentator’s criticism of Rodriguez on the grounds that Mexicans are not “white persons,” see Gold, supra., at 499-501.