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

Friday, September 5, 2014

Intergenerational Circular Migration

A couple of years ago I started noticing a new (for me) category of newly arriving Americans abroad:  young Americans, the product of European migration to the United States, returning to the ancestral homelands in Europe.  Perhaps they had an Irish grandparent or, in the case of one young woman I spoke with, an Eastern European parent.

 Born and raised in the United States, they learned that they also qualified to become citizens of an EU country.  I don't think they are counted as migrants in these countries' official immigration statistics because from the point of view of these nation-states, they are not really "foreigners".  No need to apply for a residency card, they arrive with passports and full citizenship in these countries.  And by virtue of that citizenship in an EU member state, they are also automatically EU citizens and have the right to live and work in almost all the other 28 states.

This is a description of a relatively recent phenomenon which we could perhaps call Intergenerational Circular Migration (if there is a better or more precise term for it, please say so).  The above example uses Americans moving to the EU but other examples abound.  Any country that has a history of mass immigration like the US, Canada, Australia, or Brazil is probably experiencing this type of emigration now and it is the result of a combination of factors:

Acceptance of plural nationality:  the child of a French citizen  living in Canada can get a French passport without losing Canadian citizenship.  That's not unusual.  Many countries now accept that their citizens can be born with more than one citizenship and no longer object when their citizens naturalize in another state and become duals.

Combination of jus soli and jus sanguinas citizenship laws:  Countries of immigration want to make new citizens so they tend to like an automatic system that simply declares all children born in the territory to be their citizens (jus soli).  Countries of emigration,  thinking ahead and wanting to get their citizens or their children back,  allow for citizenship to be passed along through a blood tie (jus sanguinas).  It's the interplay between the citizenship laws of  countries of emigration and countries immigration that makes plural nationality much more common than it used to be.

Reversals of fortune:  In mom and dad's day leaving the Old Country made a lot of sense.  In the destination country there was a booming economy, lots of jobs, excellent chances for social mobility.  Fast forward to this generation and these children of immigration are seeing economic stagnation, perhaps a high youth unemployment rate and, lo and behold, the ancestral country seems to be doing as well as (if not better) than the country they were born in and live in now.

All of these things are described and documented in David Cook-Martin's book,
The Scramble for Citizens: Dual Nationality and State Competition for Immigrants (2013).

He uses the case of Argentina - a country that experienced mass immigration from two European countries of emigration, Spain and Italy.  His point is that this process of welcoming and assimilating immigration is not uni-directional;  it can be reversed in a process that he calls "dis-assimilation."
"I argue that the citizenship link can be reconfigured because competitive dynamics have produced particular memberhship patterns that under propitious institutional and structural conditions affect individuals' relation to states, the nation, and the resources they monopolize.  People assumed to have been culturally integrated and embraced by a nationalizing state are becoming differentiated along specific and significant dimensions."
Interesting argument and, if true, easy to see how this might be a bit disconcerting for countries of immigration and downright destructive of a democratic nation-state's ambitions to make and keep citizens.  Why?

The first (my point) is how it skews citizen equality in a particular nation-state that has traditionally been a country of immigration.  A US citizen who is born with the potential for another citizenship is in a much better position to emigrate then his fellow citizens who don't have that possibility.   The former will find it easier to be globally mobile, while the latter must stand in line and apply (often in vain) for the right to enter another country.

An individual who wishes to emigrate back to his parents or grandparents country will find that the move is facilitated though that country's citizenship law and he will arrive in that country, not as a migrant, but as a full citizen.  That is a pretty powerful incentive provided that there are other positive factors in that decision like good employment prospects.  Furthermore, since this emigration is facilitated by blood ties it 1.  Favors the children of more recent immigration (those whose families are "native" for many generations won't have this option) and 2.  It's not strictly about class or money  - a working class person can, at least in theory, take advantage of it just as easily as those Highly Qualified Migrants provided that an individual has the right parents or grandparents. (However, Cook-Martin says that it is mostly the struggling middle-classes that take the opportunity.)

The second (his point) is that it is the very act of seeking to claim that citizenship in another country changes people.  As they document (and it is much easier to find that documentation with good 20th century recordkeeping) the history of their families and the original move to another country, what started out as a purely practical exercise (a "just in case" second passport) becomes something else.   They create an emotional tie to the ancestral country.  

He talks about this in the long chapter "The Quest for Grandma's Passport."  As much as some of his contacts talked about how the second passport was "just a piece of paper," a kind of hedge against the devaluation of their own nationality, they were going to a lot of trouble to get it.  Days, weeks, months of digging through archives to find documentation.  "Clients are emotionally overcome when a search is 'successful'" and they are "thrilled" to have the proof in their hands.  Clearly, that second citizenship is "meaningful" to them, though their attachment is going to be very different from that of a citizen actually born and raised in the ancestral country.

(I suspect that the "it's just a piece of paper" is, at least in part, a signal to the home/first country.  A kind of, "Please don't make too much of this, we are still your loyal citizens and our efforts should not be taken as an indication of our desire to lose citizenship here." )

Cook-Martin is making an argument that what he has found in the Argentina/Spain/Italy migration relationship, is applicable to other countries of immigration/emigration and he is daring enough to say this of the US:
"With the recent downturn of the U.S. economy, the descendants of Irish, Italian, Greek, Latvian, and other immigrants have started to apply for the nationality of their forebears."
I have some anecdotal evidence for this but his source is a 2008 article written by Andrew Abramson for the Palm Beach Post.  This simply is not sufficient to prove his case.  That article was written as the US economy started to founder and it's not surprising that some Americans saw an opportunity at that time.  Is it still true in 2014? Hard to know.

What Cook-Martin lacks in his book when he makes such broad statements is hard numbers.  Yes, I think he's correct in that it is happening, not just in the US but in countries of immigration that are now experiencing economic stagnation, higher inequality, fewer opportunities and less social mobility.  However, the magnitude of that phenomenon has yet to be proven.

I suspect that we will never have the data to prove it.  Countries of immigration who have citizens in the process of "dissassimilating" and taking on second or third citizenships, simply have no incentive to quantify it.  They have their myths as Lands of Opportunity and they have every interest in  ignoring anything that might contradict or make those myths less powerful.  On the receiving state side, they don't want to put these returning citizens in the category of "immigrant" (which they are and are not) and they have every interest in having them slip into the country quietly and take their place as citizens who just happened to born abroad.

Still, overall, a very good book that is well worth the read.


Anonymous said...

In 1937 my grandparents left Germany for Shanghai where my mother was born. Eight years later they immigrated to San Francisco where I was born. Fifty years later, my wife and our three children moved back to Germany, each of us with dual citizenship in hand. Three years and counting.

Thanks for the post, I will check out the book.

D Pellery said...

I am an American citizen who lives abroad and has naturalized in an EU country and has recently found out that I am eliigible for recognition as an Italian citizen via jus sanguinis. I am pursuing that recognition and I would like to add some perspective to what you have pointed out in your post.

You state "Furthermore, since this emigration is facilitated by blood ties it 1. Favors the children of more recent immigration (those whose families are "native" for many generations won't have this option)". This is not true. Italian jus sanguinis citizenship law is allowing many US citizens (as well as people in other countries) who trace their lineage back back to their GGGF (great-great-grandfather), or almost any Italian male who became a citizen of Italy in 1861 or later, to become Italian. The rule is that if your ascendant was born jus soli (e.g. in the USA) before the male immigrant naturalized, then the citizenship is passed on and so on through the generations. There are also ways to pass citizenship via the female line as far back as 1861, but that is too complicated to go into here. Many who are now seeking citizenship jus sanguinis have never met these relatives and may have no ties to the country at all other than knowing the bloodline is Italian.

My motivation to seek Italian citizenship is because I remember my Sicilian grandmother and many of her traditions have been preserved in our family. The search for my Italian grandparents documents has been a search into my identity and it has been a wonderful journey of discovery, especially when I finally met some of my relatives in my grandmother's hometown. In some ways, I felt that I had finally come home. I have learned that the phenomenon of emigration is understood and accepted by the people in these villages and family is generally welcomed back.

There is a website which is the best DIY resource anyone seeking Italian citizenship jur sanguinis can find.

If you read through the pages of the aforementioned site, you will learn that some people are seeking the citizenship because they want to live and work in Italy/the EU, some seek it because they want to stay in Europe longer than just 3 months, many seek it, like myself, for emotional reasons. Some may just want to have a second passport.
While some who have the passport who are American may think of it as "just a piece of paper", there are a lot, who like me, recognize that technically, we have always been Italian and we are obtaining official recognition of that fact. For me it is a matter of pride and identity. There should be no fear of losing US citizenship or identity because we have always been Italian. We do not have to report it when we renew our US passports as we have not naturalized, we have just completed the paperwork to be officially recognized as Italian.

With that said, I know little of what the daily reality in Italy is, but as I have willingly chosen to be recognized, I am more likely to find out at some point. Being an American abroad, I have already looked into the various tax treaties with Italy. That may be the biggest factor influencing my decision as to whether I will reside there. I would probably be more open to it if I did not have to deal with two complicated tax systems, Italy and the US. However, I will not let that be the sole influence on my final decision. Had I been aware that I was eligible for this passport earlier, I would have likely headed to Italy instead of the country I choose to emigrate to, which I chose basically because I found a job there.

D Pellery said...

I think you might might interested to know that so many Americans are seeking their Italian citizenship jur sanguinis that every Italian consulate in the US has a long waiting list for a recognition appointment. In New York, the wait for a recognition appointment, in which you present your documents, is usually more than a year. Australia also has a one year waiting list. Rumor has it that the waiting time for an appointment in Argentina is even longer.

Italy beat the US to start charging for a consular service that had been free. The demand is is so high that as of 8 July 2014, there is now a 300€ fee for the Italian citizenship recognition appointment at all Italian consulates worldwide.

In case you are thinking this process parallels the renunciation process in theUS, there is even more similarity. Once your documents have been accepted, it can take a year to get your recognition letter. Communication goes quiet and you never really know what is happening.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Anonymous and D. Pellery, Thank you for sharing your stories. And I am so happy I wrote this post because the two of you have taught me a great deal.

D. Pellery, What a wonderful comment. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I had no idea about the waiting lists or that one can actually go back farther than grandparents. (I had Ireland in mind here which has that limit).

So would it be more accurate to say that it favors those who have the right ancestors AND an ancestral country that has survived into the 21st century and now has generous citizenship by blood/descent laws?

So you are in luck if you have an German or Italian ancestry.

But are you not completley out of luck if your ancestors came over on the Mayflower and only married other descendants of British immigration up to the present day? :-)

D Pellery said...

It is actually a lot harder to get German citizenship by descent than it is to get Italian citizenship by descent. My mother's mother German and when she married a US citizen, according to the citizenshipmrules in place at the time, she liost her citizenship, thus I have no chance of obtaining a German passport without residence and naturalization in Germany.

In Italy, the same rule was in place, but it has been successfully challenged in the courts as being discriminatory to females and many who have female Italian antecedents are gaining their citizenship by bringing court cases in the Italian courts.

Germany has been restoring citizenship to those who lost it under the Nazis. I have met one Canadian and one American working in the EU country where I live who got their German citizenship this way.

Interestingly, if I were to naturalize as a German citizen, I could keep my EU citizenships, but must renounce my US citizenship.

Having the "right" ancestor is correct, but "right" is mostly defined by the citizenship laws currently in effect and how those laws view the past, although as I pointed out, there is an exception in Italy.

Anonymous said...

A review of annual German naturalization statistics shows that 70 to 85% of naturalizations by Americans occurred under the law allowing German citizenship to be reclaimed, Sect.116 Para.2 p.1 GG:

Total naturalizations by Americans in Germany:
2006: 429
2007: 434
2008: 595
2009: 578
2010: 771
2011: 869
2012: 756
2013: 994

Total naturalizations by Americans under Art.116 Abs.2 S.1 GG, Frühere deutsche Staatsang.” (Reclaim of earlier German citizenship):
2006: 303
2007: 322
2008: 514
2009: 485
2010: 663
2011: 752
2012: 592
2013: 792

Although a separate matter, note the doubling of naturalizations by Americans in the eight-year period.

LarryC said...

Hi - I was pursuing my research two years ago to obtain Italian citizenship through ancestral heritage. I was able to oly trace back to my father's father and father's grandmother. The trail ended abruptly - and without an infusion of funding, I decided to stop the hunt.

What D. Pellery has posted also reflects my own results, at least for Italian ancestral heritage citizenship, esp regarding maternal connections. It is a fascinating experience if one has the necessary blood and paper trails to follow.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Anonymous, FAscinating! And, yes, I note the rise. I wonder if we could get the stats for other EU countries? I tried to find them for France but couldn't sort what I was seeing. These are not naturalizations - these are claims to French citizenship by the children of French citizens born abroad.

@Larry, the family trees that I have the most information about are German (my great-grandparents on my father's side), the Norwegian and the French-Canadians. Only the first I think would be remotely possible and even then it is so far back - these are my great-grandparents who came from Bavaria. For all the other European countries that make the mutt that is me, I have slapped together family trees but no records. So I go back to what I said before, aren't you more likely to find acceptable documentation for more recent immigrants?

D Pellery said...

@Victoria - "Aren't you more likely to find acceptable documentation for more recent immigrants?" Not necessarily. "Acceptable" also is very much related to the quality of the documentation. For example, the documentation of my parents, who were born in the US was a complete mess. My father's birth record was missing his name. His death record had his last name misspelled and his parents' names were wrong. Additionally, the records were spread out amongst 4 different US states. My parents never talked about their marriage because they eloped to another state and it was just a civil ceremony, but I never knew that and my parents could not tell me as they had passed away. It took me more than 1 year to find the record after contacting New York State, New York City, 10 towns in New York State, the states of Connecticut and New Jersey. Luckily, I knew the date of the marriage. I finally found the record due to an off-hand comment from a geneaologist who noted that as they were married when men were being drafted into WII, that they might have eloped to Maryland, which was apparently the Las Vegas of the 1940s and allowed quickie marriages for soldiers. I checked the records online and there they were, although there were some name discrepancies recorded that have caused me major problems and required searches for other documentation to prove that these were my parents.

Immigrants and children of immigrants often Americanize their names on official documents in America and this can make them hard to find. The anglicization is often not acceptable to the Italian authorities. So then you may have to go to court in order to change the name on the US document so that it matches the name on the Italian birth certificate or other US documents so that it can be accepted by the Italian consulate.

Immigration records seem to me to be more sloppy as the years went on than they were when my grandparents immigrated to the US in the early 1900s, although this varies depending on the official who recorded the immigration.
Also, some archives in the US require that you notarize statements of your relationship to the person in the document and in some cases you must be the next of kin to get access to the document. Census data after 1940 has not been publicly released yet.

Italy has been keeping public records since the 1800s. A large number of the birth and marriage records are available on line. Once I found out the village my grandfather came from (by looking at his US immigration record) , I was able to trace that family branch back to the 1790s. It was not difficult at all, except for an illegitimate child along the way, whose status was resolved by writing the Stato Civile (City Hall - Vital Records) in my grandfather's town.

My grandmother's Sicilian town has not put their records online yet, but a visit to that town allowed me to trace several branches of the family back to the 1820s. As I did not know what town my grandmother came from, as she just said, "Palermo", I hired a genealogist, who on the basis of my grandmother's surname steered me to the correct town, which is 25 kms from Palermo. I wish it had been so easy in the US.

It might be easier to find the documentation if people were still alive so if that is what you mean, that is true, but my experience was that it was easier to get Italian documentation going back more than a century than to sort out the US documentation, which was much more recent.

Anonymous said...

there are many trans-national families along the US borders with Canada and Mexico, although not always dual-citizens, they strongly identify with the non-residential country.

growing up in central MA we were considered Franco->Americans. It was expected that I and certainly my children would become unhyphenated Americans. Never made it, moved to Canada where I consider my an unhyphenated Canadian.

An article in Les Memoires de la SGCF calls the southern cousins
les etatsuniens. Is the expression bi-directional? Are you une etatsunienne-francaise or une francaise-etatsunienne

Anonymous said...

sorry but my last sentence should read ''is the expression Franco-American bi-directional''

Anonymous said...

To further explain my earlier comment, the German Basic Law allows former German citizens and their descendents to reclaim German citizenship if it were lost in the period 1933 to 1945 due to political, racial or religious persecution. As mentioned, in the past eight year, 70 to 85% of American citizens, who took out German citizenship, claimed it under section 116, para. 2 of the German Basic Law. I suspect that a high percentage of these Americans are descendents of former Germans who involuntarily lost their citizenship during the Nazi period and are not the people who actually lost it.

Various German naturalization statistics are available at this website:
Table 12511-0005 was used for the above analysis.

Eurostat collects naturalization data by former citizenship from EU member states. However, it does not appear to have publicly available data on reasons for naturalization.

Anonymous said...

Further to the "intergenerational circular migration" theme, I came across an interesting immigration statistic for Germany. Outside of the EU, the greatest source of immigrants for Germany for 2011 (latest available) was the USA (3.3%), ahead of Turkey (3.2%), Russia (2.1%) and China (2.1%). To give this a perspective, the leading EU countries supplying immigrants to Germany were much higher: Poland (18.0%), Romania (10.0%) and Bulgaria (5.4%). Still, the fact that the USA supplied more immigrants (32,089) than Turkey (31,021) is remarkable.
See p.2 of pdf graphic at:

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Fascinating. Thank you for pointing us to the data. I think this is a theme I will explore further here on the Flophouse. I'd like to see some numbers for other countries as well.

Eric said...

"What Cook-Martin lacks in his book when he makes such broad statements is hard numbers."

I'm a bit late here, but FWIW in Takeyuki Tsuda (ed.), Diasporic Homecomings: Ethnic Return Migration in Comparative Perspective, Stanford University Press, 2009, there's an estimate of 5 million "ethnic return migrants" since 1980 under various countries' diaspora visa or citizenship-by-distant-ancestry programmes.

Trying to get my hands on a copy of that book now; I saw the citation in another article which itself is worth a read, basically the life story of one of those "return migrants": a Brazilian-born son of a Japanese man and an Italian woman, who moved to Japan for work, met an American woman, moved to the US with her, but then things didn't work out and after decades away he ends up again in Brazil.

Also, South Korea has very detailed statistics on "reverse migration" by foreign descendants of Korean citizens, as well as Koreans who have permanent residency but not citizenship in other countries. There's about 35,000 U.S. green card holders living in South Korea, and IIRC a similar number of Korean Americans with F-4 "diaspora visas"

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Eric, Thank you! I will also look for the book about diaspora homecomings and the other one. Both look fascinating. Crossing my fingers I can get them on kindle - or a friend is taking me to a bookstore near Umeda where I might be able to order.

And even more thanks for pointing out your post about South Korean return migration - that's one I will post about and link to on the Flophouse. Good info and I think people will be interested.

All the best,