Dual Citizenship, Birthright Citizenship, and the Meaning of Sovereignty
September 29, 2005
by John Fonte
Five-Minute Oral Remarks Before
House Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on
"Dual Citizenship, Birthright Citizenship, and the Meaning of Sovereignty,"
September 29, 2005
Statement by John Fonte, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Speaking for the Citizenship Roundtable, Alliance of Hudson Institute and American Legion
Thank you, Chairman Hostettler. I am John Fonte, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute. My testimony today has the endorsement of the Citizenship Roundtable, an alliance of the Hudson Institute and the American Legion.
At this year's national convention, the American Legion adopted a resolution encouraging Congress to enforce the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance and reject dual allegiance in principle and restrict its application in practice.
I would like to introduce the entire American Legion Resolution Number 165 into the record:
America has had more success in assimilating immigrants than any country in the history of the world because since the early days of the Republic, we have pursued a policy of patriotic assimilation.
At the heart of patriotic assimilation is the transfer of allegiance. For more than 200 years, immigrants have taken an oath renouncing prior allegiance and transferring sole political allegiance to the United States.
The transfer of allegiance is central to America because of the kind of country that we are. If we were a country that did not receive large numbers of immigrants, this would not be as important in practical terms. But, it is precisely because we are a "nation of (assimilated) immigrants" that we must be serious about dual allegiance.
We are a civic, not ethnic nation. American citizenship is not based on belonging to a particular ethnicity, but on political loyalty to American democracy. Regimes based on ethnicity support the doctrine of "perpetual allegiance," where one is always a member of the ethnic nation. In 1812, Americans went to war against the concept of the ethnic nation and the doctrine of "perpetual intelligence." At this time, Great Britain, under the slogan "once an Englishman always an Englishmen" refused to recognize the "renunciation clause" of our citizenship oath.
Some immigrant sending countries today appear to be closer to the British position in 1812 of promoting the concept of the ethnic nation, in opposition to the core American principle of the civic nation.
Dual allegiance violates a core American principle of equality of citizenship. Dual citizens are specially privileged supra-citizens who have voting power in more than one nation and special privileges-like EU privileges-that the majority of their fellow citizens do not have.
I recently talked to a British immigrant who had become an American citizen, while retaining British citizenship. This immigrant dual citizen cast ballots 2004 in both the U.S. and British elections within five months of each other. Most Americans instinctively recognize that something is wrong with this situation and that it mocks our concept of equality of citizenship.
Dual citizens exist in a political space beyond the U.S. Constitution. As members of foreign constitutional communities they have different (and, in some cases, competing and conflicting) responsibilities, interests and commitments. By objective practical necessity, as well as moral obligation, these other responsibilities, interests, and commitments-dilute their commitment and allegiance to the United States of America.
The great New Deal lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter was absolutely right when he stated that voting in a foreign election and serving in a foreign government revealed "not only, something less than complete and unswerving allegiance to the United States, but also elements of an allegiance to another country in some measure, at least inconsistent with American citizenship."
It is sometimes argued that even if the principle of retaining political loyalty to the "old country" is inconsistent with American democracy, the result is a good thing in practice because immigrant dual citizens promote "pro-American" and "democratic" values in elections in their birth countries. This sounds reasonable but is not necessarily the case.
For example, dual citizen Manuel de la Cruz was elected to the Zacatecas legislature as a member of the traditional anti-American Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) of Mexico. The website of the California PRD, the political home of many naturalized American citizens, contains untruths about the United States, including the charge that Mexican migrants live in the US without human rights. In 2003, the California PRD website contained pictures not only of Che Guevara but of V.I. Lenin as well. So much for the promotion of "American values."
The issue is clear. Should we continue to permit the rapid increase in dual allegiance which will happen by default if no Congressional action in taken, or should we reject dual allegiance?
If enacted in to law without changes, McCain/Kennedy would result in a massive increase in the number of American citizens who have dual allegiances.
This harms patriotic assimilation. This is the opposite of our great historical success.
What can be done? There is plenty that can be done to restrict dual allegiance within the bounds of the Afroyim Supreme Court decision.
Many acts that were formerly expatriating (such as voting in a foreign election) could be made felonies. Exceptions for serving the "national security interests of the United States" could be made. The purpose of such legislation is to affirm our nation's deepest principles. It is not to punish people, who may be well meaning and following current practice) The legislation would not be retroactive but simply say from now on "these are the new rules."
Legislation has been introduced today by Congressman J.D. Hayworth. His "Enforcement First Act" will do exactly this, and restrict dual allegiance.
In opposing dual allegiance, we at the Citizenship Roundtable stand with the Founding Fathers including both Hamilton and Jefferson, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt and Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, Justice Louis Brandeis and his protégé Justice Felix Frankfurter and the Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt which declared:
"Taking an active part in the political affairs of a foreign state by voting in a political election involves a political attachment and practical allegiance thereto which is inconsistent with continued allegiance to the United States."
For FDR yesterday and for most Americans today, this is simply common sense. Now is the time, during our current immigration debate, for Congress to reject Dual Allegiance in principle and restrict and narrow its application in practice.
John Fonte is a Senior Fellow and Director of Hudson's Center for American Common Culture.
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