Q: Does dual citizenship erode American national identity? Yes: Liberal elites refuse to see the danger of the divided-loyalties time bomb.

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Q: Does dual citizenship erode American national identity?

Yes: Liberal elites refuse to see the danger of the divided-loyalties time bomb.

Q: Does dual citizenship erode American national identity?

Yes: Liberal elites refuse to see the danger of the divided-loyalties time bomb. By Peter Brimelow Okay, okay, I know it sounds too good to be true. But the question of dual citizenship really was hotly discussed in a crowd of my fellow Americans-to-be as we all waited patiently for the judge to arrive and administer the Oath of Allegiance one summer day back in 1994. The woman behind me reflected the consensus. Of course! she forcefully declared to general approval, in the event of another military draft she would send her children back to the Caribbean  which she could do precisely because they all were retaining their original citizenship. While waiting to swear allegiance! With court officers all around!

Then the judge arrived. He swore us in and told us we were now as good Americans as anyone whose family had been here 10 generations (translation: you dont have to assimilate), and that the United States still had a major problem: racism (i.e., vote Democratic). Obviously my Caribbean friend knew something I didnt.

Intimate contact with the immigration process is one reason we immigrants usually are so much less romantic about immigration than are American intellectuals and policy wonks. (A Cuban immigrant, Harvard Universitys George Borjas, largely is responsible for the devastating finding, accepted among labor economists but utterly unknown among intellectuals and policy wonks, that the current immigration flow in fact brings negligible aggregate economic benefits to native-born Americans.)

Americans fondly imagine their national community is protected by a rigorous naturalization examination. And indeed it used to be, a consequence of the 1890-1920 great wave of immigration and the now-forgotten Kulturkampf against German-immigrant influence during World War I. But thats all been quietly abandoned. I was asked only one question in my naturalization interview: What country did the United States break away from? I guess you know that, said the Immigration and Naturalization service agent, who had already suffered my stubbornly-unassimilating English accent.

I said I did  Mexico! (just kidding). Similarly, Americans imagine that the ringing words of the Oath of Allegiance, pronounced by so many smiling multicultural mouths in so many TV news films of mass naturalization ceremonies, actually mean something: 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. I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

It sure sounds strong, doesnt it? Indeed; quite frankly, how the hell could it be more explicit? But, in fact, these words mean literally nothing  zero, zippo or, as we increasingly say nowadays, nada. No effort whatsoever is made to enforce them. At one time, the United States regarded a whole range of activities as expatriating acts, notably service in a foreign army or in a foreign government. In a near-total reversal, however, since 1990 the State Department officially has presumed that even these acts do not imply an intention to give up U.S. citizenship and intention (the dual citizens intention, natch) is all that matters.

As so often with immigration policy, this profound change has occurred without Americans being aware of it, much less being consulted. The U.S. Supreme Court began the process by rewriting the law in Afroyim vs. Rusk, the 1967 case which held that a naturalized American who had moved to Israel and voted in an election there had not thereby forfeited his U.S. citizenship.

I must say I have a bad feeling about this. It seems to me that it raises a question of what economists call moral hazard. These immigrants are swearing an oath that some, if not all, of them dont intend to keep. The United States is requiring an oath that it doesnt intend to enforce. What does this say about public probity? We constantly are told that immigrants are self-selected for enterprise (never that they are simultaneously self-selected for misfitness, which is why they historically have been disproportionately represented in jails). But what are the prospects for these immigrants who enter the United States through a portal of lies? Still, lets put aside my own naturalization experience as mere anecdotal evidence (as opposed to the pure wishful thinking of the immigration enthusiasts). Lets read what the president of Mexico had to say, as reported in the New York Times, Dec. 10, 1995: Youre Mexicans  Mexicans who live north of the border, Mr. [Ernesto] Zedillo told Mexican-American politicians in Dallas this year. He said he hoped the amendment [to the Mexican constitution allowing Mexicans to retain their nationality when they are granted U.S. citizenship] would not only permit Mexican Americans to better defend their rights at a time of rising anti-immigrant fervor, but also help create an ethnic lobby with political influence similar to that of American Jews. [Emphasis added.]

Vicente Fox, currently running neck-and-neck with the ruling partys candidate in this years Mexican presidential election, has made his nations agenda clear in several speeches. On a recent campaign tour that took in Mexican enclaves from Chicago to Californias Central Valley, Fox pledged to seek an open border between Mexico and the United States in 10 or even five years. He promised that Mexicans in the United States, now newly allowed to keep their Mexican nationality, would in future also be allowed to vote in Mexican elections. And in prepared remarks to the California Assembly  released but never actually delivered because local Latino politicians became alarmed at the uproar he was causing  Fox asserted that Mexicans look at U.S. immigration policy with utmost indignation.

To put this in perspective, remember that since the 1965 Immigration Act accidentally restarted mass immigration, Mexico has been the largest supplier of both legal and illegal immigrants. There are 7 million in the United States right now, increasing by an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 a year. What more do they want? More perspective: Fox is the candidate of the supposedly more conservative, free-market, pro-American party in Mexico. What would an anti-American Mexican say?

I think there are several distinct reasons Americans arent (yet) crashing their politicians endless fund-raisers and demanding that Something Be Done. First, they simply dont realize what is going on. In a new study for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, Stanley A. Renshon, editor of Political Psychology: Cultural and Cross-Cultural Foundations, suggests that as much as 90 percent of the current immigrant flow comes from countries that allow dual citizenship. The numbers of such countries is increasing rapidly  at least arguably because their leaders, like Mexicos, are eyeing their U.S. diaspora. The foreign-born population of the United States now is at a record 26 million, which is why Renshon describes the dual citizenship question as an issue of vast proportions and broad significance. The United States is the only country in the world, he notes, to make no effort to regulate its dual citizens responsibilities as well as rights. Secondly, many Americans have been sold the idea that the United States is somehow different from other countries  a nation of immigrants, to use the inevitable clichi. People can become Americans just by walking in and signing on the bottom line  of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, etc. But in fact this idea is totally new, being essentially invented by liberal intellectuals after World War II. It would have astonished Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote histories tracing the organic development of the United States back to England, and before that to the forests of Germany. It would have astonished John Jay, who wrote in the Federalist Papers that Americans could make their federal union work precisely because they were one united people a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs a band of brethren.

This is not to say that immigrants cant be assimilated; obviously they have been. But it requires care  care that Americans took in the past with their legislated immigration pauses and rigorous Americanization programs.

Thirdly, something distinctly odd is going on within the American leadership class. They just arent leading  not only on immigration, but on all related questions, such as bilingualism and dual citizenship. I was made shockingly aware of this some years ago when I was trying to persuade Bob Bartley, the editor of the Wall Street Journal and one the countrys most established conservative trendsetters, to break his embargo on articles critical of immigration policy. Bartley repeated his view that illegal mmigration cannot be stopped. The destiny of Europe, he said, has already been settled in North Africa [because of the population explosion there].

Surprised, I said, Thats a poor lookout for the nation-state. Oh yes, he said calmly. I think the nation-state is finished. I think [Kenichi] Ohmae [author of The Borderless World, a prophet of economic regionalism popular among businessmen] is right. I was thunderstruck. I knew the devoted fans of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, who overwhelmingly are conservative patriots, had no inkling of this. It would have made a great Wall Street Journal front-page story: Wall Street Journal Editor Revealed as Secret One-Worlder; Consternation Among Faithful  Is Pope Catholic?

Those of us who persist in raising questions about immigration policy are invariably beaten down with accusations of racism. But the countercharge, it seems to me as a humble immigrant, is that those who so ardently refuse to think about what current policy is doing to the United States are guilty  in the same warm, cuddly sense that they accuse us of racism  of a kind of treason. Brimelow is the author of Alien Nation: Common Sense About Americas Immigration Disaster, and an editor of VDARE.com, a Webzine dealing with immigration issues.

-- K. (infosurf@yahoo.com), July 24, 2000

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