JPMorgan Chase Bank v. Traffic Stream (BVI) Infrastructure Ltd., 536 U.S. 88, 13 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 88 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

terms are used in 1332(a)(2). In fact, we have no need even to decide whether Traffic Stream's reading of the British Nationality Act is wrong, as the United Kingdom says it is, 4 but only whether the status Traffic Stream claims under the Nationality Act would so operate on the law of the United States as to disqualify it from being a citizen or subject under the domestic statute before us here. We think there is nothing disqualifying.

Although the word "citizen" may imply (and in 1789 and 1875 may have implied) the enjoyment of certain basic rights and privileges, see Black's Law Dictionary 237 (7th ed. 1999) (defining "citizen" as "entitled to enjoy all its civil rights and protections" of a community), a "subject" is merely "[o]ne who owes allegiance to a sovereign and is governed by that sovereign's laws," id., at 1438. Thus, contrary to Traffic Stream's view, the text of 1332(a)(2) has no room for the suggestion that members of a polity, under the authority of a sovereign, fail to qualify as "subjects" merely because they enjoy fewer rights than other members do. For good or ill, many societies afford greater rights to some of its members than others without any suggestion that the less favored ones have ceased to be "citizens or subjects." And although some persons, like resident aliens, may live within a foreign state without being treated under American law as members of that particular polity, cf. Wong Kim Ark, supra, at 660 (" 'children . . . born in a place . . . then occupied . . . by conquest, are still aliens' "), Traffic Stream concedes that BVI citizens are at least "nationals" of the United Kingdom. See Brief for Respondent 25. Given the object of the alien-age statute, as explained earlier, there is no serious question that "nationals" were meant to be amenable to the jurisdiction of the federal courts, leaving it immaterial for our purposes that the law of the United Kingdom may provide different rights of abode for individuals in the territories.

4 See Brief for Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as Amicus Curiae 12-13.

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