Saturday, June 02, 2007

Dual Citizenship: Boon Or Bane?

This loaded question is obviously directed at the USA, which traditionally has been regarded as “a nation of immigrants”. And which continues to be so to this day. Currently, as many as 10% of the present US population are foreign-born, that translates to almost 30 million residents.

There are presently 93 countries in the world that allow some form of dual citizenship or multiple citizenship. This includes the US, and such countries as Canada, France, and Switzerland.

Of the top countries sending immigrants to the US, most of them allow dual or multiple citizenship; and very prominent of this would be the southern next-door neighbor Mexico, which also accounts for the large numbers of illegal immigrants, which numbers have been extrapolated from a low of 12 million to a high of 20 million.

So what?

Nothing, if not for a score of troubling developments that are now menacingly staring at and threatening the very identity of the nation.

Maybe never in its short but colorful history has the US been faced with very complex and divisive issues that are challenging the very fabric that has been holding together this very diverse amalgamation of people from all over the world. Thorny issues that strike at the polity’s core psychological, cultural, social, and political traits that taken together identify one as an American.

The very large issue of illegal immigration is one such issue that appears to have no short-term resolution that will placate enough of the populace. The present proposal being hotly discussed does not even merit the unanimous approval of those groups representing the illegals, yet clearly it favors this huge group; and some even speak about disguised amnesty being earmarked somewhere.

And there are other equally loud signals that to a thinking person demand some attention and analysis. We can discern them from the daily news. One comes to mind which is the pervasive anti-America feelings and attitudes espouse by those we voluntarily came searching for a better life which they had determined to be elusive in their home countries. And in a country that has been so tolerantly embracing of diversity in its many manifestations, it comes as a great surprise to learn of such negative and ungrateful attitudes.

Yet the particular issue of dual citizenship or multiple citizenship as a probable or possible exacerbating factor in the current cultural and political problems has I believe not been openly and publicly discussed. Even the political hierarchy in the US may be judged to be complicit.

Thus, there is no US provision formally recognizing dual citizenship among its own, but neither is there any prohibition of it, much less any penalties imposed for acquiring dual citizenship. An American will not lose his citizenship if he acquires additional citizenship, like from his old home country. And even if that country may be looked upon as a hostile one, or one harboring inimical positions against the US. The very tolerant attitude of the US is I believe key to this. One senses that the reason may be because collectively the US has guilt feelings not only about what it has done in the past, but also it finds itself required to be sufficiently sensitized about how the rest of the world regard it. This behemoth of a superpower, the lone one at that, instead of flexing its ample muscles appears to favor the “kid’s gloves” treatment, including on its publicly avowed enemies.

But much like the burgeoning illegal immigration problem, coupled with the myriad of global issues the US is invariably entangled, the default position appears to be that it is best that the US assumes more passive and reactive stances so as not to antagonize further the already simmering ill-will many parts of the world have already shown.

Just the same, the issues highlighted above and many more related ones need to be publicly aired and resolved if we are to assure that Americans, both native-born and new immigrants, may be able to distinctly know and define what it means to be American.

Because it appears that at present most everybody is conflicted, not really able to translate to plausible realities what the stratospheric abstract ideas about being American really mean.

One senses for example that in the current milieu citizenship appears to be some kind of undeserved and string-less gift, rather than as panoply of rights and responsibilities that each recipient should be made to know, understand, and practice. Mostly take and no give.


Update:
From an article written by a first-generation immigrant from Hungary, Mr. Peter W. Schramm.
Because America is more than just a place, being an American citizen is different than being the citizen of any other country on earth. We Americans do not look to the ties of common blood and history for connection as people the way the citizens of other countries do. Rather, our common bond is a shared principle. This is what Lincoln meant when he referred to the "electric cord" in the Declaration of Independence that links all of us together, as though we were "blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration."

BTW, Hungary is one of the 93 countries that recognizes dual citizenship.

Read the entire article.