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Friday, January 11, 2013

Citizenship Policy and Nation-State Security

Patrick Weil talks about three dimensions most commonly invoked when people talk about citizenship:  the affective, that sense of belonging and attachment;  the political/civic which means participation in the community;  and the legal, the "formal linkage" that is each individual's direct relationship with a nation-state.  The last two are tangible, manifested by concrete acts, formal processes, and papers like passports and voting registration cards.  But the first, the affective, isn't tangible at all.  No one can ever really know what's going on inside someone's head.  It is certainly possible to have a formal tie to a state with absolutely no particular affection behind it.  The reverse is also true - a person can have a deep and abiding love for a country without ever formalizing the relationship.

Individuals have strategies for making decisions about either the citizenship they already have or the ones they would like to obtain.  This is, of course, of deep interest to them personally but it is also of great interest to nation-states.  Does it matter that Americans abroad are taking on other citizenships (or renouncing) or that naturalizations in the U.S. are very low?  Of course it does.  Just as it matters very much when a high-profile figure like Monsieur Depardieu publicly accepts a passport from another state and says, "I am a citizen of the world."  It's not something that people are neutral about and it is quite naturally of deep concern to governments.  It changes how people view a citizenship in particular (or the idea of citizenship overall) and it impacts how states behave at home and abroad.  Dual citizenship can be complicated for an individual with all those intersecting rights and responsibilities - it is even more complex for states that must then make policy in response to it.

Why?  Because for one thing it has an important impact on the raison d'être of the state:  national security.

I came across this Master's thesis the other day when I was researching something else.  It's called Denationalized Citizenship Theory:  What is the role of citizenship theory in Homeland Security? by
Cherie A. Lombardi (Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California, December 2011).  I don't have a link for it but it is available on-line as a PDF and you can Google it.  It's an interesting read not only for its synopsis of various formal theories of citizenship (and good links and books) but because the author gives some practical examples of how states struggle domestically and internationally with dual citizenship in a globalized world.  The author also had some recommendations for the U.S. security community based on her research one of which was a pleasant surprise for me as an American abroad.

Ho does citizenship theory and policy play out domestically?  One scenario Lombardi explores is the case of a dual Pakistani-American citizen who wants to work for the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation - you could call them the national police force in the U.S.) "But, before he is told what day he will start his new job, he is presented with one last form to complete and sign, a loyalty oath for dual citizens attesting that the United States of America will receive his primary loyalty while he works for the U.S. government."  So the FBI's policy here (formulated in response to de facto acceptance in the US of dual citizenship) is that duals may serve but they must declare themselves as being loyal to (and only to) the United States of America. If Americans weren't allowed to be duals then such a thing would be superfluous. Right?

Even more interesting is that, while the FBI has made such a policy, other U.S. government agencies don't necessarily have the same requirement.  Her research revealed:
Open source information shows that the same secondary loyalty oath (this is the FBI) (“secondary” due to the fact that it is an oath to be signed in addition to the required oath of any U.S. civil servant when starting the job) is required by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) whenever a dual citizen wants to join the organizations but, a call to the human resources section of the National Security Agency (NSA) revealed no such loyalty oath is required of dual citizens seeking employment in that organization. 
What this says is that the U.S. government doesn't have one particular policy that applies to dual citizens in the U.S.who wish to work for the Federal government.  Instead this appears to be managed agency by agency and apparently some choose to not have any formal policy (though you cannot tell me that they are indifferent to the citizenship(s) of their employees.) 
"This situation symbolizes the lack of any formal consensus regarding dual citizenship, even among federal agencies, let alone the entire homeland security community."
Moving from the domestic to the international Lombardi talks about the changing context which is in part about the growing acceptance by so many countries in the world of dual citizenship.  Latin America, for example, changed its citizenship laws to allow it and that had a huge impact on the ability of immigrants to the U.S. to retain their prior nationality even after becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.  

But the other part which is equally significant is the ability of those duals, thanks to advanced communication technologies, to maintain a strong link with their other country of citizenship.  As an migrant myself from the U.S. I have been personally rather grateful for  these things because they have enabled me to maintain some contact with my home country and even, if I choose to do so, to be occasionally active in political life there.  I am willing to admit, however, that there are some situations where this could be problematic.   

Let's imagine, for example, a situation where one country was undergoing some sort of internal strife and duals used the host country as a base to support one side or another - even to the extent of trying to get  the host country or other country of citizenship to do something about it.  Lombardi points out that such a situation has in fact existed for years in the U.S.  Cuban-Americans have been very active in U.S. politics and have tried to influence how the U.S. manages its relationship with Cuba.  In France during the recent election some French politicians tried to win votes with the French-Armenian population by supporting some of their claims.

What is legitimate here and what isn't can be a tough call.  Duals are still citizens of both countries and have a voice and the right to use that voice in both.  Where is the line?  

The question is more than just academic for all parties.  Immigrants and duals can get into real trouble here with one or the other government.  For immigrants and duals in the U.S. Lombardi cautions them because:  
Currently, under the PATRIOT Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act,  many of the activities that many immigrants would consider only to be assisting the political opposition, or freedom fighters, back home fall into the legal category of providing material support to terrorists, which renders them ineligible for most immigration benefits and status in the United States.
That's a policy that effectively limits what a dual can do in support of the home country (or elements within it).  Aside from the law I think there is a kind of moral contract operating here as well.  When it comes to the political activities, there are lines most of us do not cross and things that we do not do as a dual (or as a legal resident in another country far from home) because one suspects trouble - either potential legal problems (even if you are unsure of the exact policy of the state in question) or the moral outrage of the citizens of one or the other country. 

I would argue that states do have a legitimate interest in those activities but Lombardi is right - it is not always so clear for the individual.  Another example (just for fun):  Let's say someone is a French-American dual citizen and sends money and offers open public support to organizations in the U.S. to maintain the death penalty?  What if this person had some contacts in the French government and tried to lobby politicians and bureaucrats to either support the U.S. internationally or turn a blind to its activities?  I'm sure that death penalty supporters in the U.S. would be thrilled.  But would the French nation have a legitimate problem with that kind of behaviour?  I am not sure what the French government (or the EU) would say but I'm pretty sure the French people I know would be furious.

Lombardi completes her analysis with some recommendations.  I won't go over all of them here (gives you an incentive to read the paper) but I was surprised by this paragraph buried in the final pages of the thesis:
"The other lesson to be learned from all the discussion about how sending nations are trying to use their immigrant populations to affect U.S. policy is that the United States also has its own migrant population living in other nations around the world, and they too may serve as America’s voice in foreign lands. While it is beyond the scope of this thesis to recommend the use of Americans overseas to influence the policies of other nations, this is a call for the homeland security community to recognize and consider U.S. citizens living abroad as a resource for information collection and dissemination as well as contacts within other nations. Though the international aspect of homeland security is mentioned in both the National Security Strategy and the National Strategy for Homeland Security the role of U.S. citizens living abroad appears under-recognized and under-utilized by the homeland security community." 
May I humbly suggest that propositions of this nature must await the resolution of the American Diaspora Tax War of 2012/2013?  Frankly, I don't think we are in the mood right now.  :-)

Still, it might be a basis for negotiation and it sure was nice to get a nod.

12 comments:

Sally said...

You are very right, we are not in the mood to act as spies or agents for the very country that wants to extract enormous, unreasonable penalties from for the the supposed "crime" of having a bank account in the town in which we live.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@sally, We have to be really careful here. All diaspora communities face this issue of what the other country of citizenship can legitimately ask of her "domestic abroad."

Spying would be out of the question. That is going to get you put in jail or deported as it should. That's not cool and I sure as hell wouldn't do on behalf of the US.
I wouldn't have done that even before the Diaspora Tax War started. I have a sincere attachment to my host country and that would be a wretched way of showing that affection.

That said I have always thought of myself (not so much these days) as an unofficial ambassador between the two countries. The intent here of course being to promote understanding and to help both sides understand each other a bit better.

Then it was made abundantly clear to me that not only does my homeland government not appreciate my efforts but they plan on keeping me (and 6 million other people) under suspicion for as long as it pleases them to do so.

So I'm not even in the mood to do that "quiet good" anymore. I meet a lot of people in my host country who are pretty ambivalent about the US (when they aren't downright hostile). I now keep my mouth firmly shut. Makes my life here in France much more pleasant and conserves my energy for other things.

If they are willing to talk then we can discuss but I don't see any willingness in the homeland to do that.

Rosy the Riveter said...

Very well said, by Victoria and Sally. I wrote a letter to some officials who will remain unnamed here, mentioning just that - that there are unoffical ambassadors here, writing masterpieces like the ones we see here, maintaining social and professional relationships of which the US directly or indirectly benefits, and training students to do business in the States. Surprisingly, one actually wrote back - nicely, and with full recognition that we should not be going through what we're going through. I've already suggested that we group and start something resembling a class action suit, which would surely get attention. But somehow we can't get it off the ground. Why ? It would be a great way to attract attention to the fact that US expatriates are not the rich, yaght-owning bling-blings that the homelanders think they are.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@ Rosy, I LOVED how you put it: "rich, yacht-owning bling-blings." I laughed so hard when I read it. I will steal and re-use if you don't mind.

There are international lawyers looking into it. I highly recommend Bernard Schneider's article which was published in the Virginia Law Review here:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2186076
(ACA cites his work on their site).

Another is Allison Christians who spoke at the FATCA forum. She had some suggestions there for how Americans abroad could launch an attack. Her blog has frequent posts about her thinking on FATCA and CBT. Her blog is here: http://taxpol.blogspot.fr/

So why aren;t we trying to get someone like this working on our behalf? That is a great question. Some of it might have to do with we just haven't found anyone willing to do it. More likely is that no one is willing to stand up to be the "pigeon" (excuse me "courageous soul.") There would have to be people behind any lawsuit and for now no one is volunteering. The diaspora organizations like ACA don't seem to even want to go there. I would like to know why.

Would I do it? Absolutely. But I don't think my situation would be the best case. I think duals and accidentals would have a better chance. What do you think?

Blaze said...

The thesis author's research seems incomplete. She didn't unearth the very well-known fact that all US citizens living outside US are "tax cheats," "tax evaders" and "traitors." Not good qualifications for helping out homeland security.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@blaze, Good point. I may write to her about it if I can find an email. Would be interesting to start a conversation.

Sally said...

@ Victoria, Rosy, Sorry, my anger and disappointment got the better of me. Spying was the wrong word.

I, too, spent many years as an "unofficial ambassador", explaining the US perspective and arguing that there are many Americans who are not crazy when some outrageous, out-of-context news story came up.

Sometimes I still do step in and try to help my German friends and colleagues understand the motivations or words of whatever Americans they are dealing with. But today I only do it when I can see myself or my employer benefitting from improved understanding.

I do remain loyal to my American friends and relatives, but my loyalty has become rather selective.

Otherwise, forget it. The US government was disloyal to me, snookering me with the bait-and-switch in the 2009 OVDI. Why should I be loyal to them?

For a while while I was dealing with the IRS, I thought might end up being that "pigeon". I'm not an accidental American or anything, but the facts of my case put me clearly as a "benign actor", as the TAS calls it. When I opted out of the OVDI, I told the IRS that I would appeal and go to court if that was what it took to reach a fair conclusion. Whereupon the IRS decided they didn't want any money from me after all. Was it my good facts? Or my threat to waste even more of their resources? We'll probably never know.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Sally, Oh my goodness - what a nightmare for you (alas it's one you share with others). I am so damn sorry.

Did the IRS weigh the situation carefully - how much money they thought they could get versus how much they would have had to spend to meet you to court? Also I wonder very much about those of us who have absolutely no assets or income in the US. Collection would be a real problem. How would they go about it? I've never had a good answer to these questions. Maybe one of these days I will pay for an hour with a good international tax lawyer and ask.

Nothing wrong at all with your use of the word "spying" and I hope I didn't sound as though I was criticizing you for using it. I just wanted to be very clear that I wouldn't even think of it (not that I have ever been asked mind you).

Victoria FERAUGE said...

And it sounds like we are in exactly the same place when it comes to that "unofficial ambassador" role we used to play so wholeheartedly.

Now multiply our feelings by 6 million.

And US homelanders/government still haven't figured out that they have a big problem?

lymphomajourney said...

Most governments do find their expatriate communities helpful in pursuing their economic and sometimes political interests, for some of the reasons outlined in the article. When I worked abroad as a Canadian govt official, we always maintained contact with Canadian expatriates as they provided insight and contacts with the host government. Normal diplomatic stuff, not cloak and dagger. The reverse is true, although the boundaries are sometimes less respected by less democratic countries and how they work with their expatriates.

From a national security perspective, all govt civil servants have to take an oath to the 'Crown' (essentially the govt and laws of Canada), and our citizenship oath requires a comparable commitment. But we accept dual nationality and some of the ambiguities that go with it, with civil servants understanding (or they should) that in event of a conflict, they must either focus on Canadian interests or recuse themselves from that particular file.

Enjoying the ongoing discussion.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@lymphomajourney, I have only to look at how the French manage it to see how other governments see their "domestic abroad" as an asset, not a liability. Good to hear that Canada does as well. I had wondered if the American disinterest (which can turn to active hostility at times) had to do with the US being a country of immigration. Is the existence of a diaspora threatening to a country built on immigration that has every interest in making sure people stay and no interest whatsoever in acknowledging that it doesn't always work out that way? But Canada and France do it so what is the problem with the US? I'd really like an answer to that.

Good discussion about this in Gabriel Scheffer's book about Diaspora Politics.

Anonymous said...

Just an aside, I wonder how many people are aware that the French government actually issues two passports (simultaneously) to the same individual in certain cases--definitely puts a new slant on