Editorial - The problem of dual citizenship

Article publisher: 
LA Times
Article date: 
27 December 2014
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

Before becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, immigrants must take an oath that says, in part, "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen."

That language seems to firmly establish a principle of "one person, one country." But even though it sounds unequivocal, it is not. In fact, it is entirely possible for naturalized U.S. citizens to retain citizenship in another country, or for a native-born American to claim citizenship in a second country... How can a person be equally loyal to two countries?

Yet dual citizenship has been specifically sanctioned by the United States Supreme Court. In 1967, the court ruled that the State Department had violated the Constitution when it refused to issue a new U.S. passport to a U.S. citizen who had voted in an election in Israel. The decision overturned a law saying that "a person, who is a national of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voting in a political election in a foreign state."...

Michael A. Olivas, an immigration professor at the University of Houston Law Center, believes that the number [of dual citizenship holders] is well over 1 million and could be several times that number.

But the concept of dual citizenship is problematic both symbolically and practically, and could become divisive if more immigrants decide to avail themselves of the privileges of U.S. citizens — as we believe they ought to do...

In previous editorials, we have argued that U.S. citizenship ought to be the norm for people who have decided to live and work permanently in this country. And there's a case to be made that immigrants are more likely to seek U.S. citizenship if they are able to retain their previous nationality. Why wouldn't it? They wouldn't have to give anything up. Indeed, when it became possible to have dual Mexican and U.S. nationality in 1998, there was a surge in the number of Mexican immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship.

But it's also true that dual citizenship undermines the common bond that unites U.S. citizens regardless of their ethnicity, religion or place of birth. Dual citizenship places a sort of asterisk next to the names of some U.S. citizens but not others...

In questioning dual citizenship, we aren't saying that immigrants must forget their countries of birth or repudiate their language or culture. In large parts of the southwestern United States, U.S. citizens of Mexican descent frequently travel back and forth between the two countries, enriching the cultures and economies of both countries. Rather, we believe that citizenship in this country should be an expression of allegiance to it, enforced not by a pledge but rather by a desire to be part of this country. Dual citizenship may have a place in American society, but the goal should be the cultivation of undivided Americans, proud of their heritage and committed to this nation.