Back in the saddle again, and a lot to get caught up on. Where to start? How about Joshua Micah Marshall's discussion of dual citizenship
? It's an interesting issue, one that I've been thinking about a lot now that my permanent residency has been secured and I can think about becoming an American citizen.
When one does become a citizen, there is an oath one has to swear, which begins:
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;
Now this seems pretty much to rule out the idea of dual citizenship to me. There's no room for temporary renouncement or anything. Anyone who takes advantage of a law passed by a foreign power for that purpose seems to me to be breaking his or her oath.
Why, then, has Congress enacted legislation that makes this oath nugatory? The great oath-swearing ceremonies we see that are so much part of the American experience are a sham, for a good proportion of the people swearing these words will immediately ignore them, in that they keep the nationality they have just "absolutely" renounced. Congress is a willing participant in this exercise.
The only effect the oath has is to discourage people like myself, who have scruples about swearing something they do not believe in, from taking up American citizenship without renouncing their other nationality, as they are legally entitled to do.
I happen to think that dual citizenship is not a big deal under normal circumstances. If the two nations are unlikely to clash in any significant form, there is normally no real question of divided loyalties. In the event of war or some other international crisis, there should of course be a means of asking the citizens concerned to choose.
Which brings me to my own position. Despite the inconvenience associated with being a permanent resident rather than a citizen (in particular the fact that I have to pay a whopping 15% of my income for something from which I cannot benefit) I cannot at the moment in good conscience swear that oath. In a weird echo of the Glorious Revolution, however, I still consider it possible that the UK might voluntarily abdicate its position as a nation that requires loyalty, should it enter into some United States of Europe. Should that happen, I will gladly take up citizenship of a nation that keeps English values alive, until such time as those values are restored to their rightful position in my homeland.
Because, unlike many immigrants, I was not attracted here by the idea of America, great idea though it is. My reason for being here is purely personal -- love. I did not come here to join the club that Josh Marshall describes. I came here because of love for one of the members of that club. I am a member of another club, just as respected, with older but smaller premises and see no reason to give up membership of that club. I am, in essence, content to be signed in, which the club rules allow and which the member is content to do. The analogy is already becoming strained, so I shall drop it, but my point is that the club is not my reason for being here, the member is. The ideals of America are admirable, but no more so than the ideals of England to my mind. I therefore see no reason to throw in my citizenship lot yet.
That is why, I believe, like Jim Bennett, that there should be a middle way available -- "sojourner" provisions that enable citizens of like-minded countries to live and work freely in each nation. Secured by treaty, it should also be a simple matter to include provisions that subject potential fifth-columnists (Islamic sympathisers from Britain, IRA sympathisers from the US, for example) to extra security and the possibility of having a sojourner application turned down or revoked. In the event of a serious clash between the countries, then sojourners could be required to return home or, in the event that they are married to citizens, renounce the original citizenship and go through normal immigration arrangements. This idea obviously needs work, but it could be a start.
So there's my solution -- citizenship of one nation and one alone for the committed, sojourner provisions for those who will benefit the nation economically but who are here for personal or temporary reasons, and difficult permanent residency for the economic migrants who wish to retain their nation's citizenship but whose benefit to the US is not clearly established.
And they've got to sort out whether that oath has any meaning.
UPDATE: It appears I was misinformed about non-US citizens being ineligible for social security payments. A correspondent writes, "You are eligible for social security if you remain in the US (legally) and, in fact, even if you return to Britain since it is
one of the countries where you continue to receive benefits (although I suspect they may be subject to UK income tax). I have been a permanent resident over here for over 20 years, paying social security the whole time. If you leave the US you are not eligible for Medicare (and that is the same for US citizens) since it doesn't cover overseas hospital charges." Good to know.