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

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pledging Allegiance: Plural Nationality Part III

T. Alexander Aleinikoff and Douglas Klusmeyer, in their essay "Plural Nationality: Facing the Future in a Migratory World," divide states into three categories on the plural nationality question:

Open regimes:  Canada, France, Russia and the UK.  All allow multiple citizenship however that citizenship was acquired.  None require renunciation of citizenship once dual nationals reach the age of majority or of their citizens who become naturalized citizens of another country.

Tolerant regimes:  Australia, Germany, Israel, Mexico, South Africa and the United States.  These countries allow dual citizenship at birth but some require the renunciation of one citizenship at the age of majority.  The U.S. tolerates dual citizenship for its citizens who naturalize in other countries but does not, in principle, permit dual citizenship for naturalized citizens.  Australia and South Africa do just the opposite.

Restrictive regimes:  Austria and Japan.  Both follow strict jus sanguinis.  Dual citizenship is generally not allowed (there are exceptions).

In my previous post I asked why states are not more aggressive about applying strict and limited citizenship rules and why they don't make agreements with other states to enforce them in a consistent way order to avoid the "evils of plural nationality".

Here are what I think are three plausible answers:


Costly and Nearly Impossible to Enforce:  Interestingly enough the U.S. did enter into a set of agreements with other states to manage such issues as military service and naturalization.  These were called Bancroft treaties signed between 1868 and 1937.  In that time the U.S. signed a whopping 25 treaties with 34 countries.  They were allowed to lapse because many of the provisions did not stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny and because they were nearly impossible to enforce.

Today the U.S. can hardly keep track of how many citizens it has abroad much less proceed to a case-by-case discovery of how long they have lived outside the U.S. and whether or not they have acquired other citizenship (states do not necessarily share that information with other states).  So between the arduous task of negotiating citizenship treaties with every other nation-state on the planet that past muster with the U.S. Supreme Court, and the near impossibility of enforcing those treaties beyond U.S. borders, it is simply not practical to make such agreements.  Europe seems to have come to the same conclusion.

"Harnessing the Diaspora":  Let's say that a quarter of the French citizens living abroad (about 250,000 people) decide to become naturalized in their countries of residence.  And what if those citizens represent some of the best and brightest and most productive members of the French nation who were raised and educated in France?  The receiving nation is happy to have them because their skills are a net benefit to the destination nation at nearly no cost (it is estimated that there are nearly 500 companies in Silicon Valley, USA started by French entrepreneurs).

Now, what is the likelihood that they will ever come back to France if they become American citizens and lose their French citizenship because France decides to abolish dual citizenship?  Nearly zero, I would imagine.  Moreover, by refusing to allow dual citizenship for its nationals, the French would not only lose the naturalizing citizens to another state but their descendants as well.  By this reasoning the French state has every interest in allowing her citizens to hold plural nationality.  She retain her citizens and their children, and French emigrants are turned into assets to their home country by fostering economic and social ties between all their countries of citizenship and by, perhaps one day, returning to France with their skills, their knowledge and any assets that they acquire abroad.

Impediment to Attracting New Citizens: All states have an interest in having some residents become citizens particularly if they are stable, productive, highly-skilled, long-term residents.  Resident foreign nationals are people who do not participate in the political life of their country of residence and have no allegiance or duties and responsibilities toward that state other than paying taxes and obeying the laws.

In most modern states they also enjoy almost all the benefits the country has to offer (public education, social security, access to the job market...) without becoming full citizens.   Another source of concern is their state of citizenship which has a legitimate interest in their well-being and some limited right to intervene on their behalf.   So from the receiving state's perspective it is better to bring these people into the community of citizens.  However, where renunciation of prior nationality is a requirement for naturalization, even long-term residents think twice and may decline to become citizens of their state of residence.

So the bottom line is that for any agreement to work states would have to set up costly enforcement mechanisms (share citizen databases, for example?), they would have to agree to permanently lose citizens to other states and they would have to accept the likelihood of larger numbers of foreign nationals on their soil who enjoy all the benefits of residency but refuse to become citizens.

What I see when I look at this murky, overlapping, intersecting, inconsistent set of citizenship rules is states jockeying for position and competing with other countries for potential citizens (or just trying to hold on to their own) within the community of nation states.  Everyone is trying to create rules that maximize their interests based on their relative position:  country of emigration versus country of immigration, number of resident foreign nationals, number of nationals living abroad, desire to attract high-skilled labor or labor desperately needed by certain industries, relationships with former colonies or other areas of interest, a need for foreign capital (remittances, for example, or direct investment), demographics, and so on.  States have every reason to compete and very few reasons to cooperate.

The result seems to be a trend toward tolerance of plural nationality.

That's the perspective of the states.  What about individuals?  Do individuals also weigh the costs and benefits and try to maximize their interests?  Of course.

In the next post let's talk about the path to citizenship and the individual.  

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