An end to dual citizenship?

By ALEXIS FABBRI, UPI Correspondent  |  Dec. 8, 2005 at 4:55 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Next month, Congress will tackle the sticky issue of immigration reform and all the political and patriotic themes attached to the United States' nature as an immigrant nation. Some policy analysts are calling for an end to dual citizenship, claiming it has transformed the United States from a "melting pot" of political assimilation to a "mosaic" of disconnected immigrant communities.

Past U.S. success with immigration has depended upon "patriotic assimilation," as immigrants renounce political ties to their country of origin after becoming U.S. citizens, said John Fonte, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington during a panel discussion.

Fonte's paper, "Dual Allegiance and the Politics of Immigration Reform" calls on Congress to "discourage and restrict dual citizenship."

A bill sponsored by Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., expected to be taken up by the House next month and perhaps merged with other proposed legislation, does just that.

The Hayworth Enforcement First Act would make "voting in a foreign election, serving in a foreign government, running for an elective office in a foreign state, or serving in a foreign army a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and 1 year in jail unless the secretary of state approves an exemption on a case by case basis."

Fonte defined these civic activities: voting, running for office, serving in the army, as "dual allegiance," or the application of dual citizenship.

He argued that American citizens who participate in politics both here and in their country of origin have not been fully assimilated.

"America is a nation different from any other nation," he said. "Dual allegiance challenges the U.S. immigration ethic ... and reinforces the idea of an ethnic nation over a civic nation."

Bush's "guest worker" plan, as well as House and Senate immigration reform bills up for consideration next month, will "result in a quantum increase in dual citizenship," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. During a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute, Krikorian said the "guest worker" plan, which would allow non-skilled immigrants to work in the United States for up to six years, would actually result in the "massive permanent settlement" of immigrants without "patriotic assimilation."

"(Right now) the U.S. government is not rejecting dual allegiance," Krikorian said. Congress has been "essentially mute" on the topic, allowing dual citizenship and therefore dual allegiance, he said.

Michael Barone, author of "The New Americans" and senior writer at U.S. News and World Report, said he does not blame immigrants themselves for this shift away from patriotic assimilation. "American elites aren't sufficiently committed to the assimilation ethic." Barone said he would "welcome legislation that would disfavor dual citizenship."

Other panelists called for an overhaul of America's immigration model. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, called for "a return of America's melting pot," or complete assimilation, "instead of a mosaic," where immigrants form new communities here based on country of origin without ever really becoming Americans.

Dual allegiance "is one of the things that have undermined the American" civic ethic, he said. He said he looked forward to the return of an "American America."

But Marc R. Rosenblum, a Visiting Scholar at the Migration Policy Institute said that policies that "disfavor" dual citizenship will divide America. "This is actually the kind of thing that deters melting pot and integration," he said.

"We definitely do want to promote immigrant integration ... and assimilation," he said in an interview. "We live in a highly integrated world in which immigrants are much more mobile. Immigration has a wholly different character (now) and there's a whole class of global citizens who will retain that mobility."

Rosenblum said while legislation that discourages dual citizenship is inadvisable, an outright ban would be impossible. "There is no way to track it so it ends up being a symbolic, divisive gesture that has no effect."

Carmen DiPlacido, a 27-year veteran of the State Department's consular affairs office now in private practice as an attorney agreed. The number of dual citizens is "very difficult to keep track of," he said. The U.S. government does not keep these statistics, he said.

DiPlacido said there are benefits to dual citizenship beyond symbolic value or even voting power. In some countries, of which Mexico is an example, property rights and inheritance rules are connected to citizenship.

Those who do return to their home countries and participate in the political system, as voters or even as political candidates export American values, DiPlacido said.

"Some people would return to the country of their original nationality just to become involved in the political system because they believe in democracy and believe in freedom," DiPlacido says. "They would try to influence the people to follow the American way."

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