The process of becoming a naturalized US citizen involves an oath where the immigrant declares that he or she absolutely and entirely renounces and abjures all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign country or entity of which he or she has been a subject or citizen in the past.
The precise and clear wording seems to unequivocally emphasize on a one-person-one country principle. However, naturalized US citizens are permitted to retain the citizenship of their native countries while native-born citizens are permitted to become a citizen of another country. This arrangement seems to contradictory to the generally-accepted view that a person can only be loyal to one country. Indeed, this seems to be the very core of the concept of national loyalty.
Yet, a 1967 judgment by the United States Supreme Court overruled the State Department’s decision to refuse the issue of a new US passport on the ground that the applicant, a US citizen, had had voted in an election in Israel.
The Supreme Court had held the State Department’s decision to be in violation of the Constitution and struck down a law that mandated loss of nationality for US nationals, whether native-born or naturalized, who had voted in a political election in a foreign state.
It is interesting to note that the issue of dual citizenship has not been subject to the same public scrutiny and criticism as compared to other immigration-related issues like grant of citizenship for illegal migrants. One possible reason may be that there is no accurate record of the number of US citizens holding dual citizenship.
Conservative estimates suggest at least a million dual citizens in America although an immigration professor at the University of Houston Law Center opines that the actual figure may be several times higher. The issues underlying dual citizenship are not merely symbolic. There are many practical issues involved, which may get exacerbated as more and more immigrants opt for US citizenship.
Naturalized US citizens have faced accusations of divided loyalties despite such citizens not opting for dual citizenship of their ancestral nations—internship of 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans during WW II being one such instance. In case of naturalized citizens who have opted for dual citizenship, the question of divided loyalty may easily become a divisive issue during troubled times.
There have been numerous calls for requiring permanent residents of the country to opt solely for US citizenship. Yet, there are many who opine that allowing immigrants to retain citizenship of their native country will encourage them to opt for US citizenship in more numbers.
The fact that the immigrants need not give up anything will always be a favorable point. Allowing Mexicans to opt for dual Mexican and US citizenships in 1998 resulted in a sudden rise in the number of Mexican immigrants seeking citizenship of the USA.
Yet, it cannot be denied that permitting individuals to hold dual citizenships weakens the common bond that is expected to prevail over all ethnic, religious, or other differences existing in the country. Being a dual citizen makes the individual separate from those who are citizens of the USA alone.
Different nations have different approaches towards the question of dual citizenship. Some deny the idea outright while others allow dual citizenship for specific countries only. Some others have allowed dual citizenship only after establishing a difference between citizenship and nationality.
Dual citizenship often leads to practical problems for individuals as well as the government. The State Department has a policy of discouraging US citizens from seeking dual citizenship or retaining the same. The Department points out that dual nationality may restrict the ability of the US government to assist citizens in foreign countries.
Dual citizens are also warned that they may face problems regarding access to classified information, which may complicate recruitment of the individual in sensitive jobs and assignments or even cause the individual to be disqualified from getting such jobs.
Despite practical issues, the general consensus is that the difficulties caused by dual citizenship does not justify resorting to an amendment to overrule the law laid down by the Supreme Court. Yet, the State Department’s warning often forces interested US citizens to have a rethink about swearing allegiance to another nation.
The fact that dual citizenship is often equated with lack of loyalty, which is evident from public reaction to the display of the Mexican flag by individuals holding dual citizenship at Cinco de Mayo rallies. Such an adverse reaction to dual citizenship may create political difficulties for illegal immigrants seeking US citizenship without giving up citizenship of their native country.
Opposition to dual citizenship does not imply complete repudiation of the language, culture, or country of birth of the immigrant. Regular travel by US citizens of Mexican origin to their native places often contributes to the enrichment of the culture and economies of both nations.
The question about dual citizenship merely focuses on the fact that citizenship should indicate allegiance and loyalty arising out of a desire to be a part of the country. While dual citizenship may be acceptable today, every citizen should have the long-term goal of cultivating pride to their heritage and undivided commitment to the American nation.