Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pledging Allegiance: Plural Nationality Part II

There are four reasons why plural nationality is more and more common:

Migration:  This is the first and the most obvious reason.  There are 5 million American citizens living abroad according to the AARO. Oddly enough, when people move around they still tend to do very human things like marry, have children, build careers, serve a nation, and make lives for themselves in their country of residence.  All those things lead to situations where plural nationality is possible.

Technology:  It is easier today for people to keep a genuine attachment to multiple countries thanks to cheap, fast transportation and personal communication devices.  I can be in the city of my birth, Seattle, in mere hours.  Advances in computer-mediated communication and the growing availability of Internet access make it easy to stay in touch.  Telephone service and radio were a big step up from snail mail but today we have Facebook, email, chat which are all ways we keep in constant contact with loved ones and how we stay aware of and can continue to participate in, the debate on currents events in our home countries.  When you can have that level of contact with another country your attachment to it does not weaken just because you live somewhere else.

State Sovereignty:  Every nation state has the right to decide its own rules for acquiring and losing citizenship and it is considered to be a purely internal matter.  This means there is very little cooperation between states on this issue.  France does not check with all the other countries on the planet before deciding to limit jus soli for the children of immigrants.  Today, people in the U.S. do not verify the coherence or impact of repealing the 14th amendment with the laws of other nation-states.  For that matter,  when the amendment was first implemented did the United States ask other nation-states whether or not they were OK with the fact that one of their citizens by blood could automatically be granted U.S. citizenship just because he or she was born on U.S. soil?

Limited International Law:  There does exist on an international level a minimum ruleset for all states concerning citizenship which seems to consist of saying that everyone has the right to a citizenship somewhere and that all citizens have a right to leave their country of citizenship or return to it.    There is also the 1957 Convention on the Nationality of Married Women and other conventions that cover otherwise stateless persons and racial or sex discrimination by a nation-state in the acquisition of nationality.  Aside from that everyone is pretty much free to make up his own rules and those rules intersect in interesting and often odd ways.

I had a colleague many years ago who was an American citizen by birth, a French citizen by naturalization and was married to a UK citizen.  Her child could have had three passports, all legitimately acquired through a combination of U.S., U.K. and French law.  This fact might infuriate the citizens of the states in question but, to my knowledge, there was nothing illegal about it.

The reality for all states is they cannot make citizenship laws in a vacuum - other states will make their own laws and if they overlap or conflict with yours, well, there is not much you can do.

If states really wanted to stop plural nationality they would 1.  apply a very strict jus sanguinis or jus soli laws internally and force children of mixed marriages or naturalized citizens to choose one citizenship and  2. enter into agreements with other states that would enforce those laws.  

Oddly enough, for all the talk about the evils of dual citizenship, I don't see any modern nation-state doing all of these things.  

In my next post I'll talk about why I think that is.


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