Sunday, March 24, 2002

Via the perfesser, I just read something that upset me just a little bit here. In particular, I disagree with the combination of this line:

"I don't think the United States should allow dual-citizenship at all. Not ever. Not with Australia, not with Canada, not with Israel, not with Mexico. Not with anyone."

With the absence, even of acknowledgement, of this line:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." (US constitution, Amendment XIV, 1868)

And this one:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." (Amendment X 1791)

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s perfectly valid to think that the United States should not allow dual citizenship. It’s just that such a concept breaks into two parts: (1) not allowing native-born citizens, or those already citizens, to pick up another citizenship, and (2) requiring foreign-born persons who seek naturalization to give up their birth citizenship.

Any argument regarding not allowing native-born citizens, or those already citizens, to pick up another citizenship should, in my mind, address the right of the government to remove the citizenship of one who is already a citizen. The constitution does not authorize this; hence, the government cannot do this. The Supreme Court is on my side on this one; check out Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967). Another interesting, relevant case is Mandoli v. Acheson, 344 U.S. 133 (1952).

It is clear to me that the government does not have the right to remove a person’s citizenship, and certainly not for obtaining another citizenship. The US government is created by the people, aka "We the people of the United States ...." (preamble, US constitution). What the people choose to believe, and particularly to whom the people choose to bear allegiance, is not for the federal government to decide or punish. I was born with US citizenship, and that citizenship is mine to do with as I will. It wasn’t given to me by the government; it is part of who I am, simply because I was born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof. If I choose to obtain another citizenship, there is nothing the government can do about it; the power to remove my citizenship is not delegated to the United States by the Constitution. If the government could simply remove American citizenship, then it would be much easier to quash dissent or disagreement.

That said, I perceive that there may be a good argument to be made regarding requiring foreign-born persons who seek naturalization to give up their birth citizenship. It seems that some people , including myself, believe that there is a brewing problem with some people who have American citizenship, but who never really became “Americans.”

I believe that there is one attribute that differentiates Americans from the population of every other country on earth: the love of freedom over all else. Though many have colonized this continent, the norms of our nation were established by people who, in their own minds at least, were willing to risk their lives for the freedom to worship as they pleased. Our independence of Kings was established by a decade of slow, tortuous, uncertain battles, before the advent of antibiotics or nylon, by people who preferred to fight in freezing, wet, deadly conditions rather than consign their children to subjecthood. One of our great national quotes, aimed at the American population that didn’t wish to fight, and that would soon become Canadian or English, speaks to that very concept:

“If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." (Samuel Adams, August 1, 1776)

If you don’t have that love of freedom, you are not what I would call an American. If you are willing to trade your freedom for money, or security, or anything else, you are not an American. If you already have American citizenship, there’s nothing to be done about that, but, like Sam Adams, I sincerely wish that you would go away.

Fortunately, however, at least a plurality who are raised here do believe in freedom. I think that there is a cultural meme here that is passed down from generation to generation, regardless of one's ancestry. It is likely that there are also genetic components to the desire for freedom, but the culture itself seems to be enough to ensure that there is a plurality of Americans who believe in freedom. I wish it were more, but, again, there’s nothing I, or anyone else, can do about it. And that’s as it should be.

It’s clear to me, however, that the people of other nations, raised in different cultures, don’t feel the same way as often as do native-born-and-raised Americans. Canadians, similar to Americans in so many other ways, have traditionally been much less likely to riot, protest, fight, or kill for their freedom. I think it’s because their country was descended from the forbears to whom Samuel Adams spoke. Throughout their history, Mexicans have tolerated repressive, thuggish governments that are exactly what Americans have not tolerated. Yes, I know that there’s an uprising in Chiapas, and I believe that the Zapatistas are trying, in their own way, to fight for freedom, but they get precious little support from the general population of Mexicans. I mention Canada and Mexico simply because they are so close to the US; to the best of my knowledge, there is not one other country on earth in which ordinary people have so often been willing to lay down their work, pick up weapons, and fight, kill, and risk death for what they (sometimes incorrectly) perceive as freedom. Rather than an appeal to king, country, rodina, or god, a (sometimes bogus) appeal to freedom is what motivates us to fight. From the American Revolution to both sides of the American Civil war, from the Lincoln Brigades to today’s militia movement, Americans fight for perceived freedom far more frequently than the people of any other land. Unfortunately, another way to say exactly the same thing is that the people of other countries are generally less interested in fighting for freedom than are Americans. And therein lies the reason to ask newly naturalized citizens to give up their citizenship to the mother country.

In a perfect world, I would like citizenship to be available only to those who believe in freedom. I think that’s the motivation underlying the offering of political asylum in the US; if you’ve fought for freedom hard enough to attract the unwelcome attention of the authorities, then you’re our kind of person. However, I think that asking people to give up their allegiance to their homeland in exchange for American citizenship is another reasonable sorting mechanism. If your home is less free than the US, and you are not willing to renounce that less-free country, then you really shouldn’t be a citizen here. You obviously value something more than freedom. If you come from a country that is more free than the United States (I don’t believe such a country exists; if I thought it did, I would go there tomorrow), then you clearly are willing to give up freedom to come here, and, again, you are the kind of person who really should not be a citizen here.

As opposed to the situation of taking away the citizenship of native-born Americans, putting conditions on naturalization is perfectly constitutional. The US Constitution, article 1, section 8, states that “The Congress shall have power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization,” and that pretty much gives Congress the right to do whatever it wants in this area.

Just a few other quick points: while I would like to see citizenship more tightly restricted than it is now, I also believe in open borders with no welfare. I believe anyone should be able to come here, participate in our economy, and succeed or fail based on their own efforts. They just shouldn’t be allowed to vote without evidence that they love liberty greater than wealth. And, for me, having open borders does not imply that we keep them open to everyone in times of conflict, i.e. I think it would be perfectly rational to evict all non-citizen male muslim arabs between the ages of 18 to 34, until the end of the current war on terror. But those are blogs for another day.

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