The text of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo seem to have allowed Mexicans living in California and New Mexico to make some choices: (1) leave or stay and (2) become a US citizen or remain a Mexican citizen.

"Those who shall prefer to remain in the said territories may either retain the title and rights of Mexican citizens, or acquire those of citizens of the United States. But they shall be under the obligation to make their election within one year from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty; and those who shall remain in the said territories after the expiration of that year, without having declared their intention to retain the character of Mexicans, shall be considered to have elected to be come citizens of the United States" Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

The bold part above says they will keep their rights as Mexican citizens, even in the USA. How would that have worked? Did that mean, even if they were in the USA, they were still protected by the rights promised them in Mexico's Constitution of 1824?

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    There is nothing in the quote that suggests that resident aliens would not be subject to US law. Quite the opposite - it clearly states that within 1 year they must either choose to be resident aliens or (by default) to be US citizens.
    – MCW
    Nov 15, 2021 at 12:57
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    "having the rights of Mexican citizens" merely makes them resident aliens. The US treaty does not affect how the Mexican government governs their citizens; if Mexico passes a new law that applies to all Mexican citizens it would theoretically apply to Mexican citizens resident abroad. The rules for applying foreign legal precedence would be the same as normal (US courts consider foreign legal precedent) I'm not a lawyer; if you want a more authoritative answer, it might be worth migrating the question to law stack exchange. Without naming your sources, H:SE isn't going to be helpful.
    – MCW
    Nov 15, 2021 at 15:09
  • @MCW: SO, in a nutshell, you state that the question is obviously both *Too Basic and based on a false premise. Why don't you close it then, since protecting the site is the stated responsibility of Moderators? Nov 15, 2021 at 17:10
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    @PieterGeerkens - I don't understand the responsibility of the moderator that way. The community has the power to close the question; unless the question is actively damaging/offensive, I won't close. I have tried my best to advise OP on how to revise the question to avoid a close vote. I've also provided my interpretation of the language, once again in an attempt to better understand the intent of the question, and to provide feedback on how to revise the question.
    – MCW
    Nov 15, 2021 at 17:31
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    I agree with MCW's interpretation, there is no way US would have allowed Mexican laws to apply on the US soil. The most obvious interpretation of the text is that these people would retain all the rights of Mexican citizens in regards to their relation to the Mexican government (and legal system). Similarly, if a US citizen were to travel, say, to the UK, they would retain all their rights at US citizens, regarding their relations with the US, like voting in US elections. But some of their US rights, such as rights to bear arms, they would loose while on the UK soil. Nov 15, 2021 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


IANANCL (I am not a 19th Century Lawyer), but it doesn't seem that complicated. Those words are saying residents of the territory switching hands have a year to decide which country's citizenship they want to declare. The only tricky part is that its worded in such a way that not making any such declaration at all defaults the person to US citizenship.

The fact that nobody is getting "kicked out" is perhaps made clearer in the previous paragraph:

Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States, as defined by the present treaty, shall be free to continue where they now reside, or to remove at any time to the Mexican Republic...

This same paragraph talked a bit about property ownership. However, it basically reaffirmed all prior private property ownership, regardless of nationality. There were some interesting promises against taxation that I don't quite understand (my instincts say lawyers likely made a good bit of money litigating the boundaries of that language.

..., retaining the property which they possess in the said territories, or disposing thereof, and removing the proceeds wherever they please, without their being subjected, on this account, to any contribution, tax, or charge whatever

This of course didn't apply for citizens of native nations ("Indians"), who it looks like from the treaty the US had little intention of treating like full US citizens.

Considering that a great part of the territories, which, by the present treaty, are to be comprehended for the future within the limits of the United States, is now occupied by savage tribes, who will hereafter be under the exclusive control of the Government of the United States, and whose incursions within the territory of Mexico would be prejudicial in the extreme, it is solemnly agreed that all such incursions shall be forcibly restrained by the Government of the United States whensoever this may be necessary

  • On the last bit, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_title_in_New_Mexico has relevance. The pueblos were not treated quite as badly as others (not saying they were treated well either).
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 15, 2021 at 21:54
  • @JonCuster - Ug. Let's say you read the events in there differently than I do. Giving the aggrieved party some of their land back after the courts ruled you illegally took it doesn't sound all that generous to me.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 15, 2021 at 22:01
  • Well, the pueblos did have some special treaties with the US Government that many other tribes did not. The general outcomes were not great, but the pueblos still have special relationships with state and federal entities.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 15, 2021 at 22:04

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