The US House Committee on Appropriations just passed a resolution to grant citizenship to Charlie Gard, a British infant. Of course, the resolution is only part of a much larger bill that would need to be passed into law by Congress/the President.

However, recently there has been a lot of noise from the executive branch of the US Government proclaiming that it has power over immigration granted by the US Constitution, with regard to the various immigration bans the White House has attempted to enact.

Considering this, and understanding that immigration policies in a broad sense probably came from Congress in some form (as there is a lot of existing 'immigration law' on the books), does Congress have the authority to grant citizenship to an individual? Can Congress pass a law that applies to a single, specific individual (rather than an office or position held by an individual, such as the Office of the President of the United States)? Is there any precedent for either of these things?

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    The executive's power over immigration and citizenship issues has been delegated to it by congress, mostly by the Immigration and Nationality Act (passed under congress's power "To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization"). In the English system from which the US system is derived, an act of Parliament was formerly the only way one could be naturalized. I don't know the current state of US law with respect to individual bills like this, however, so I cannot answer your question.
    – phoog
    Jul 19, 2017 at 16:38
  • @phoog Thanks, but it looks like an answer to me, albeit partial.
    – TylerH
    Jul 19, 2017 at 19:17
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    I think you’re mistaken as to what Congress did. It passed a resolution granting Charlie and his parents permanent residence status upon their completion of an application and arrival. That will have the same immediate effect in terms of his coming here for treatment, but it certainly is not citizenship. See the bill here: twitter.com/RepKevinYoder/status/887404289769058304/photo/1
    – A.fm.
    Jul 20, 2017 at 4:21
  • @A.fm. Looks like I did mix up citizenship and residency, but luckily that doesn't change the question I'm asking.
    – TylerH
    Jul 20, 2017 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


A law which punishes a specific person – a "bill of attainder" – is unconstitutional. Private laws, which benefit an individual, are legal. An example is Private Law 112-1, which says

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, for the purposes of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), Sopuruchi Chukwueke shall be deemed to have been lawfully admitted to, and remained in, the United States, and shall be eligible for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence under section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1255) upon filing an application for such adjustment of status.

Nothing prevents such a bill from being made law, where the benefit is a grant of citizenship. Of course, it has to be signed by the president, or else congress must override his veto.

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    Some examples: Private Law 105-10 directed the Attorney General to naturalize Chong Ho Kwak. Private Law 104-4 didn’t directly grant citizenship, but waived certain requirements for naturalization for Nguyen Quy An.
    – Guan Yang
    Oct 26, 2018 at 13:49

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