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.