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Table of Contents
So What? Some Basic Questions About Dual Citizenship
The Domestic Context of Dual Citizenship
Dual Citizenship and the Integration of Immigrants
Dual Citizenship and Conflict: The War of 1812 Redux?
Mexico's Dual Citizenship Decision: A Mix of Self-Interested Motivations
Appendix: Countries/Territories Allowing Dual Citizenship in Some Form
In 1916, writing against what he saw as the excesses of the Americanization program for new immigrants, the journalist and cultural essayist Randolph Bourne called for a "Trans-national America." He envisioned us as a country populated by nationals with strong emotional ties to their countries of origin or, for immigrants, their home countries. In this new world, we would be united as Americans primarily by the fact that we were "international citizens."
In recent decades, Bourne's vision appears to be on the verge of being realized. The number of countries allowing, and for many immigrant-sending countries, encouraging, their nationals to hold multiple citizenships has exploded. Before 1991, only four Latin American countries that opted to recognize dual citizenship existed: Uruguay (1919), Panama (1972), Peru, (1980), and El Salvador (1983). Between 1991 and 1997 alone, an additional six South American countries have done so (Jones-Correa, 2000, 2). Once a relatively rare phenomenon, there are now at least 93 countries that recognize dual citizenship (see Appendix).1 No doubt others will soon be added to that list.
Moreover, as Richard W. Fox and James T. Kloppenberg (1995, 85) point out in their recent biographical essay on Bourne, some modern theorists, "have seized upon Bourne's 1916 essay 'Trans-national America,' as a multicultural manifesto for a new American national identity." T. Alexander Aleinikoff (1998b; see also Spiro, 1997) for example, specifically embraces Bourne's vision for the United States, while another advocate has called on dual or multiple citizenship to become a basic human right enforced by the United Nations General Assembly (McGarvey-Rosendahl, 1985, 305, 321-325). The question I want to raise in this essay is whether Bourne's vision represents a dream to which we should give our support, or whether it is a utopian fantasy whose serious and potentially harmful implications for this country Bourne, and his contemporary advocates, did not seriously think through.
The need to do such thinking is all the more critical given the enormous number of new immigrants arriving in the United States, both legally and illegally, as well as President Bush's stated interest (cf., Schmitt 2001; Eggen and Fears, 2001) in regularizing the status for some number of illegal immigrants. Surprisingly, given the role that porous borders and lax immigration enforcement (Brown and Connolly 2001, A17) played in allowing terrorists to enter the United States, President Bush is reported (Associated Press, 2001) to have told Mexican President Vicente Fox after the September 11 attack, that he "hasn't forgotten that we have commitments to work to regularize the situation of immigrants." In other words, he is still considering some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
That group is now estimated at between 8.5 million (Porter, 2001) and nine million (Cohn, 2001) and rising, with no signs of abatement. Mr. Bush's statements have been vague, but it seems clear that he wishes to regularize and exert some further control over a very porous border with Mexico's promise to help, and the price of that help is some form of regularization (Jordan and Sheridan, 2001). Others have suggested it is part of his longer-term political strategy with Hispanics (Gigot, 2001). While others (Skerry, 2001) have noted that it is responsive to the business wing of the Republican Party, which favors a steady supply of labor.
While labor, political, and control issues have appeared to take center stage in the president's proposal, there is a much more important and rarely discussed set of issues — those dealing with cultural cohesion and integration. Put bluntly, a new regularization may make, with Mexico's real help, control of the border easier to maintain. It may also be helpful to Mr. Bush politically, although that is debated (Gimpel and Kaufmann, 2001). And it might help some labor-intensive industries.
However, the real question that needs to be addressed is whether it benefits the country's cultural and political fabric to focus narrowly on immigration control, economics, or the future of Hispanics in the GOP. What really needs to be frankly discussed is the relationship of immigration policy to our policies concerning maintaining and improving the quality of civic mindedness, and cultural and political integration, combined with a concern for strengthening the individual traits and outlook that support them.
These issues have not been superceded by the return to patriotism in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. On the contrary, those events underscore the critical necessity of having a public that takes the idea of "One America" seriously, and in doing so is able to persist in putting national interests before ethnic, racial, and religious interests. How to sustain and strengthen the forces of national integration is, if anything, now even more crucial to our country's well being.
It is within that set of concerns that questions about dual and multiple citizenships arise.
What Is Dual Citizenship and Why Does It Matter?
At its most basic level, dual citizenship involves the simultaneous holding of more than one citizenship or nationality.2 That is, a person can have all, or many, of the rights and responsibilities that adhere to a citizen in each of the several countries in which he or she is a citizen regardless of length of time in or actual residence in a country, geographical proximity of the two countries, or the nature of their economic, cultural, or political ties. My concern here, however, is not with dual citizenship as an element of international migration issues. Rather, it is with its impact on American national identity and culture.
A person in the United States may acquire multiple citizenships in any one of five ways. (Aleinikoff, 1998a, 26, 27; see also O'Brien, 1999, 575) He or she may be born in the United States to immigrant parents. All children born in the United States are U.S. citizens regardless of the status of their parents (jus soli). Second, a person may be born outside the United States to one parent who is a U.S. citizen and another who is not (jus sanguinis). A child born to an American citizen and British citizen in the United Kingdom for example, would be a citizen of both countries. Third, a person becomes a naturalized citizen in the United States and that act is ignored by his or her country of origin.3 This is true even if the country of naturalization requires, as the United States does, those naturalizing to "renounce" former citizenship/nationality ties. In the case of the United States, failure to take action consistent with the renunciation carries no penalties, and others countries can, and often do, simply ignore that oath of allegiance. Fourth, a person can become a naturalized citizen of the United States and in doing so lose her citizenship in her country of origin, but can regain it at any time, and still retain her U.S. citizenship.4
There is also a fifth and in some ways newly emerging vehicle for developing multiple citizenships unremarked upon by either Aleinikoff or O'Brien. Citizens of a country like the United States that does not formally recognize dual citizenship, but does not discourage it either, may have citizens whose countries of origin have dual citizenship agreements with third, fourth, and even fifth countries. For example, a number of Latin American countries recognize dual nationality with Spain, as Guatemala does with other Central American nations (Jones-Correa, 2000, 2). The common citizenship status towards which the European Union is moving is an another example of what might be called block multiple citizenships.
The United States does not formally recognize dual citizenship, but neither does it take any stand, politically or legally, against it. No American citizen can lose their citizenship by undertaking the responsibilities of citizenship in one or more other countries. This is true even if those responsibilities include obtaining a second or even a third citizenship, swearing allegiance to a foreign state, voting in another country's election, serving in the armed forces (even in combat positions, and even if the state is a "hostile" one), running for office, and if successful, serving.5 Informed constitutional judgment suggests Congress could legislatively address any of these, or other, issues arising out of these multiple, perhaps conflicting responsibilities.6 Yet, to date, it has chosen not to do so.
Is dual citizenship and multiple nationality really an issue for the United States? An examination of the numbers suggests it is. The latest official estimates (1999) of the number of foreign-born persons, of whatever legal status, living in the United States is almost 26 million (26.4).7 This is the largest foreign-born population in our history and represents a thirty percent rise (six million) over the 1990 figures. The number of immigrants for the last few years of the decade stretching from 1990, coupled with the total number of immigrants in the previous decade (1980-90) add up to the largest consecutive two-decade influx of immigrants in the country's history.8
Immigration Service official figures for 1994-1998 show that 17 of these "top-20"9 immigrant-sending countries (85 percent) allow some form of multiple citizenship. Of the more than 2.6 million immigrants from the top-20 sending countries, 1994-1998, over 2.2 million (86 percent) are multiple-citizenship immigrants.
Keep in mind that while 17 of the "top-20" immigrant-sending countries are multiple-citizenship- allowing countries, that number (17) represents only a small percentage of the total number (92, not including the United States) of such countries. And, of course, many of these remaining 75 countries send the United States many thousands of immigrants. Adding those countries to these figures suggests that almost 90 percent of all immigrants come from countries that allow or encourage multiple citizenship.
Historically, of the 22 million-plus immigrants legally admitted into this country between 1961-1997, 16 and a third million, or almost 75 percent are from dual/multiple citizenship-allowing countries.
The basic data are indisputable: American immigration policy is resulting in the admission of large numbers of persons from countries that have taken legislative steps (for economic, political, and cultural reasons) to maintain and foster their ties with countries from which they emigrated. One may disagree about the importance or the implications of these facts, but not with their existence.
So What? Some Basic Questions About Dual Citizenship
These figures raise critical questions for the United States. In this essay, I would like to address some of them. My stance is balanced somewhere between the enthusiastic, determined, and I believe, naive embrace of massive dual-citizenship immigration as a matter of little consequence to us (Spiro, 1997), and the premature, but not unrealistic, concern of our possible evolution into a country where separate psychological, cultural, and political loyalties trump a coherent national identity (Geyer, 1996).
The psychological implications and political consequences of having large groups of Americans holding multiple citizenships are rarely, if ever, seriously considered. Yet the issues raised by these facts go to the very heart of what it means to be an American and a citizen. It also holds enormous implications for the integrity of American civic and cultural traditions. Among the questions I would like to address in this essay are the following: Is it possible to be fully engaged and knowledgeable citizens of several countries? Is it possible to follow two or more very different cultural traditions? Is it possible to have two, possibly conflicting, core identifications and attachments? And, assuming such things are possible, are they desirable?
Theory vs. Advocacy
The basis for either endorsing or advocating the development of multiple national attachments is ordinarily based on narrow legal analysis wherein anything possibly permitted is acceptable, or on the "post modern" advocates' highly abstract theoretical musings, wherein anything imaginable is suitable. It has been carried out by a small group of law school professors and political theorists, many of whom are enthusiastic advocates of dual citizenship.
Generally, they are of two types. The first are those who emphasize America's liberal tradition and our continued failure to live up to it. They see an America indelibly stained by its treatment of Indian tribes, Americans with darker skins or accents, women — and anyone else who has a quarrel with America's distribution of wealth, influence, and public attention and their share of them. The response to any disparity for these theorists is more liberalism, which is to say, more emphasis on rights — group-based if necessary (Kymlica, 1995) — more emphasis on government guarantees of outcomes such advocates prefer, and more mandated measures to ensure that "recognition" (Taylor, 1992). They welcome multiple citizenship because it represents a long step in the direction of ensuring "more democracy," defined as parity for diverse cultural traditions regardless of their degree of fit with already existing ones. (Habermas, 1992; for a cautionary note see Smith, 1987.)
The second group of theorists are the post-modernists. Their single, partially correct insight is that social organization is a by-product of intent and is thus, to use their term, "constructed." From this they conclude that no social form has much intrinsic or functional value, except those they advocate. They have little, if any, regard for America's cultural and political traditions which they see as inherently racist, xenophobic, and anachronistically nationalistic. Their remedy is to welcome, and where possible to further, the demise of American national culture and substitute "larger loyalties" which, in their view, are more "democratic" and conducive to strong "multicultural" identifications (Isbister, 1996, 1998; Maharidge, 1996). They welcome multiple citizenships because they believe that it weakens the ties to "hegemonic" capitalism, of which the United States is the chief exemplar.
There is much to be said of the dangers of assuming that democracy unbalanced by a concern with the public culture and psychology that make it possible is a virtue. Or, that a preference for proven traditional cultural forms is a vice. One of the many ironies of these discussions is that those who would never dream of imposing America's so-called "dominant" cultural values on any group they feel worthy of cultural self-determination are incapable of applying the same standards to the culture which makes their own complaints possible.
Unlimited Identities — a Narcissistic Conceit
The problems with the narrow basis of most theoretical discussions of multiple citizenship go beyond issues of solid substantive or theoretical grounding, or personal political views masquerading as political theory. Consider the question of multiple loyalties and national identity. Most advocates subscribe to the "Why not one more?" theory. We are reminded that we are, as in my own case, sons, husbands, and fathers.10 We are labeled as Caucasian and western. We are working class by background, and upper-middle class by Socio-Economic Status (SES) categories. We are Jewish and reformed; New Yorkers, Manhattanites and Upper West Siders. We are professors, scholar/writers, psychologists, psychoanalysts, and neo-Freudians. We are economically progressive, politically moderate and culturally conservative. And we are American, Northerners, and Jewish-American.
Postmodern theorists see us as comprising a virtually unlimited and replaceable set of selves that can be enacted or abandoned at will (Gergen, 1998). Liberal political theorists and their allies count up all the categories by which we may be understood and conclude that adding one more, say Mexican or Indian nationality, will make little, if any, difference (Martin 1999, 8-9).
The first basic fallacy of these arguments is that core identity elements are infinitely malleable. They are not. The second is that all identifications have equal weight. They do not.
Psychologically diffused, dysfunctional, or incoherent identities are matters for clinical and therapeutic concern (Erikson, 1956). Politically, therefore, they should not be our country's aspiration. Moreover, the fact that we can have many elements in our complex modern identities does not negate the need to integrate them into a coherent and functional package. It only makes that required task more difficult.
Finally, the "Why not one more?" theory fails to distinguish between the elements of personal identity that form a central core of one's psychology and those that are more peripheral. I am much more a father than a Caucasian, much more a political moderate than an Upper West Sider. And, I am definitely more of an American than most of the categories in my list.
Consider in this context Aleinikoff's contention that multiple attachments do not produce "anomie or post-modern neurosis."11 Indeed he argues that, "on the contrary, it appears that human beings are rather adept at living in more than one world, bringing the insights of one to bear on the other, or compartmentalizing their lives into separate spheres." He then gives as evidence the case of friends of his who adopted a Russian baby, held a dual ceremony of a Jewish ritual circumcision and at the same time had the baby naturalized as an American citizen, at which ceremony the parents recited the oath of allegiance for him. This, in his view, "shows that the opposite of a single fixed identity is not necessarily a loss of bearing or radical personal confusion. The two identities — Jew and U.S. citizen — are deeply significant to their relevant communities; but the assembled friends and family did not see a contradiction (or even a tension) between them."
Of course they didn't. The parents were presumably native-born or had lived here long enough to be naturalized Americans. The baby would therefore be raised by parents who were themselves a product of a lifetime, or many years, as Americans with all that entails. They would speak the same language, have the same cultural patterns and outlooks, and the baby would grow up with the connection to their new country as a very early and primary experience. That these two adults chose to adopt a baby reflects the fact that what they shared was more powerful than the possible nationality-religion tensions between them.
Holding multiple identifications, even those with deep significance, does not mean they must be, or are, equal. Consider that it is certainly permissible for our political leaders to have, and even to express, a commitment to their faith. However, as discussions surrounding John F. Kennedy's Catholicism in 1962 and Joe Lieberman's Judaism in 2000 make clear, we also expect that their identity as, and commitment to, being an American will take precedence.
As a practical matter, however, why expect tension at all when the categories of traditional religion in the United States and national identity have become essentially fused? As Will Herberg pointed out (1955) almost 50 years ago, the religion of America is Americanism. Or, to put it another way, religion in the United States has become somewhat secularized, and, to the extent that it has, Americanized. So there is very little tension present in contemporary American society, especially that part of it which is highly educated, affluent, and occupationally well placed, in being both an American and a Catholic — or a Protestant or a Jew.
No sensible person argues that people can't function with multiple commitments. People are wife and mother, Catholic and professor, some child's parent and some parent's child. Most often in the United States, these commitments are tensionless and even when they are not, do not call into question fundamental values or ways of being in and seeing the world. In short, there are important distinctions to be drawn: between core elements of our identity that we acquire early and shape those other important identity elements developed later, and between those that are acquired and maintained with little trouble and less commitment and those that are not.
Before we can talk sensibly about whether it is truly possible to have two or more divergent core national identities, we had better be clear about what it takes to develop and maintain one that is coherent and integrated. And we had better be clear about how personal and national identities function to support the cultural and political arrangements that underlie this fabulous experiment, America.
Metaphors and Muddles
Such understanding may help us make less of a muddle of our metaphors. For example, dual citizenship is often compared to bigamy (Geyer, 1996, 68).12 However, in my view, that analogy is deficient. Marriage is a voluntary union between two adults, later in their lives searching for intimacy, companionship and partnership. It is based on a combination of similarity, complementarity, practicality and the hope for wish fulfillment.
Nationality, on the other hand — a combination of national identification, psychology, and outlook — begins with the earliest experiences of language, family, custom, and parental psychology. I want to underscore the word "outlook" in this list, because culture is deeply imbedded in not only what we think, but how we do so. Core cultural frames, developed early in life and consolidated by experience, are not interchangeable.
Furthermore, this early foundation generally develops within a relatively consistent institutional, cultural, and psychological setting which is not freely chosen, nor easily abandoned.13 In these, and other ways, nationality and national identity are quite the opposite of marriage.
Another marriage-framed metaphor that is often used compares dual citizenship to the relationship to one's family and one's in-laws. Advocates like Aleinikoff (1999, 39) who use this metaphor agree that conflicts can arise, but believe you can still be loyal to both. There is of course, much that lies behind the word can, as in the phrase "can still be loyal." In some societies the wishes of the elders take precedence over the wishes of the couple, if they differ. In our society, it is easier to be loyal because the preferences of the couple are expected to outweigh the wishes of the parents. Yet there is a more basic question here.
What happens when both parties feel very strongly about an issue, a matter of principle for each? How does one resolve and maintain fidelity to dual loyalties in those circumstances? The answer in marriages that remain viable is that the partners agree to disagree. However, this is only a viable solution if the number of such basic conflicts is very small. Once they become more pervasive, "irreconcilable differences" are more likely.
Notice the psychological implications of that legal phrase. It is a recognition that, as Abraham Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Couples with irreconcilable views of matters that anchor their central understandings of who they are and where they stand in the world are not good candidates for successful relationships. It is wholly unclear why two such different, conflicting views of core identity elements within a person, as multiple loyalties allow — and perhaps encourage — should be any more successful.
Nationality and national identity therefore, seem closer to family than married life.14 Is it possible to have equally full, deep, and enduring relationships with two spouses? I doubt it. However, if the family metaphor is more apt than the marriage metaphor, it would be more accurate to begin by asking some different questions.
The basic fact of American immigration patterns since 1986 is that it is heavily weighted toward immigrants with non-western cultural and political traditions. Given that fact, questions framed through the lens of the family metaphor would be: Is it possible to have two different sets of parents, with different core psychologies, different values, different beliefs, different world views, and the information and experiences that support them all, and yet respect and obey both equally? I do not think so.
Is it possible to give equal weight to all these elements that help form one's central emotional attachments? It is difficult to conceive of doing so without running the risk of developing an extremely shallow foundation for ones' identity. Such an identity is more likely to be conflicted than functional.
The idea that individuals can integrate multiple, conflicting, basic orientations toward life may well prove a form of cultural conceit. It is apparently easier for some in the privileged elite to disregard the primary attachments that most citizens have to their own countries. In so doing they appear to have confused "sophistication" with a new form of modern rootlessness. Such people may go anywhere, but belong nowhere.15
Dual Citizenship and American Democracy
This is the opposite of civic engagement. The American ideal of civic republicanism is, after all, "the citizen" not "the subject." It has been well understood in political theory that democracy makes many demands on its citizens (Thompson, 1970). They need to be informed about the issues their society faces, temperate in their deliberations of them, and restrained in actions designed to further their preferred solutions. Living in a country facing complex, divisive issues arising from its increasing diversity requires even more from its citizens. Yet, a strong case can be made that for today's American citizen, much more is given than required.
Advocates consistently minimize the difficulties of being fully engaged, knowledgeable, and effective citizens in one political system, much less two. For example, Peter J. Spiro (1997, 1468) argues that, "The retention of previous nationality does not necessarily detract from participation in one's newly adopted polity even if the individual remains politically active in her country of origin." What evidence is presented to support this assertion? None.
He presents no evidence on levels of participation by dual citizens who are or are not active in their "home" countries. He presents no evidence on the participation of dual citizens in this country. And he presents no evidence on the levels of understanding and attention paid to the American political process by dual nationals regardless of their engagement in the politics of their "home countries." He is certainly entitled to his views, but it would be preferable if they were based on evidence beyond his own preferences before they are put in the form of declarative sentences.
In reality, there is more to the question of participation by dual citizenship nationals than whether they can participate in two different countries. The theory of democratic participation has always been that it is the vehicle through which self-interested ideas can be transformed into larger public interests. A person may certainly start out motivated primarily by the former. Yet, by taking part in the process of deliberative democracy, other views are encountered and pure self-interest becomes open to modification. An immigrant who participates to further her self interest, which she sees as allied with the interests of her "home country" or country of dual identification, presents a different calculus to this traditional formulation. In short, the capacity to participate by itself does not resolve the issue. The real questions are: What kind of participation, for what purposes, and with what consequences for herself and others?
Spiro further argues (1997, 1469) that, "political engagement in one polity should not preclude similar commitment in another, at least not to the extent that rules of political engagement in them are compatible. This possibility is most clearly evidenced by the internal American construct of dual sovereignty in which citizenship in one's state is held concurrently with U.S. citizenship."
This is hardly a convincing or reassuring argument, and elsewhere in the same article he appears to take the opposite position. Spiro (1997, 1478) allows that, "as for commitment, it may be difficult fully to engage in the civic activity of more that one polity." Yet, the problem with equating dual citizenship with the American federal system goes beyond Spiro's apparent agreement with both sides of the argument.
The analogy between American federalism and dual citizenship between two or more different cultures and countries simply does not hold up. Any American state in relationship to the national system shares critical and fundamental basic attributes. The language spoken is the same, the common culture is shared as well, the overall framework is unitary and one system is fully incorporated into the other; they operate on parallel time sequences, with parallel ranges of expected behavior, have had a long history of parallel and integrated historical experience, and so on. Does any one seriously believe that Washington State and Washington, D.C., do not have more in common with each other than either has with India, Mexico, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Jamaica, El Salvador, Haiti, Pakistan, Colombia, Russia, Ukraine, Peru, Bangladesh, Poland, and Iran, to name 16 of the top immigrant-sending (to the United States) countries that encourage dual citizenship.
Spiro endorses Michael Sandel's (1996, 343) view that whether one chooses to carry out one's commitments as an American citizen, or the citizenship responsibilities of another country, is a matter of personal moral reflection and choice. This is consistent with a profoundly robust view of citizens' entitlements and an equally profound but narrow view of their responsibilities. And it has the most profound consequences for what has, for over two hundred years, been the foundation of American republican democracy: an informed and engaged citizenry.
At a time when Americans' civic connections and institutions, are, by almost any measure, dangerously depleted (Putnam, 2000) is it wise to make the responsibilities of citizenship wholly optional? At a time when the federal government and foundations from all sides of the political spectrum are struggling to find ways to rebuild America's social capital, is it helpful to encourage indifference to the consequences of failing to do so? It may well be that in an ideal world the benefits of citizenship could be given without asking anything in return, but then who and what will support the institutions and government that makes citizenship and its benefits possible? This seems to be a very good illustration of believing that anything that is possible, is preferable.
There are other basic problems as well. The issue of knowledge and understanding is an important one in a republican democracy like the United States. Being informed and engaged is central to democratic citizenship (Thompson, 1970). What do citizens in this country need to understand and appreciate? It would be helpful to have some knowledge of the ways in which the ideals of personal, religious, political, and economic freedoms motivated those who founded this country and those who followed. It would be useful to be familiar with the courage, determination, self-reliance, optimism, and pragmatism that accompanied those motivations. And it would be necessary to have to some knowledge of the country's struggles to always realize these aspirations.
These are large issues, yet it is important to consider them. They apply as equally to current as to prospective citizens. Yet, we are failing badly in both groups on these matters. The "test" for citizenship requires knowledge of a number of disjointed facts requiring little, if any, knowledge of the traditions — political or cultural — that have shaped this country. Many thousands become citizens and require translations of ballots on which they cast their vote. It is hardly likely that these citizens have followed the complex pros and cons of these policy issues16 since they don't well understand the language in which these debates are conducted. More likely, they gain their information from advocacy groups who have a very particular point of view, but one which is certainly not based on dispassionate presentation of the issues so that new voters can make up their own minds.
Some ask whether it is legitimate to hold immigrants to a standard unmet by citizens. Many studies underscore that question. A recent report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that supports liberal arts education, recently asked a series of high-school level multiple-choice questions to a randomly selected group of graduating seniors at the nation's most elite colleges, including Harvard, Princeton, and Brown. The results were dismal. Of our nation's best students, 71 percent did not know the purpose of the Emancipation Proclamation; 78 percent were not able to identify the author of the phrase "of the people, for the people, by the people." And 70 percent could not link Lyndon Johnson with the passage of the historic Voting Rights Act. Yet 99 percent correctly identified Beavis and Butthead, and 98 percent could correctly identify Snoop Doggy Dog (Veale, 2000; see also U.S. Department of Education, 199917).
There is a legitimate case to be made for asking those seeking citizenship to be conversant with the traditions and practices of the country they are asking for entry. However, it is clearly the case that immigrants and native-born citizens alike have much to learn about their country. It remains to be seen whether it is truly possible to be conversant with the traditions and policy debates of two countries. Evidence keeps mounting that doing so even in one country is a task beyond the reach of increasing numbers of American citizens.
That fact however, does not argue for lower standards. On the contrary, the informed exercise of citizenship plays a central, critical role in this republican democracy. Therefore, it is extremely inconsistent for advocates to push more liberal dual-citizenship policies in the name of furthering democracy, while at the same time not whole-heartedly supporting standards of knowledge and commitment which support it.
The dilemmas are well captured in the work of David A. Martin (1994) who first emphasized the importance of "common life," and later (1999, 4-14) said he was persuaded to support dual citizenship, albeit subject to limits. The dilemma is starkly framed by Martin's (1999, 13, emphasis mine) assertion that:
Democracy is built on citizen participation, and its ideal is meaningful participation of an engaged and informed citizenry. This presupposes a certain level of devotion to the community enterprise, to approach public issues as a unified community, even while leaving much to individual choice in deciding on the aims the polity should pursue or on the specific policies to address specific public issues.
Yet he (1999, 27 emphasis in original) goes on say quite directly that:
It must be conceded that the claims made...If pushed to their limits, would argue strongly against dual nationality in the first place. If focusing primary political activity in this fashion [by allowing the right to vote in only one place] carries such benefits for solidarity, democratic engagement, and civic virtue, how much more could these goods be expected to flow from channeling exclusive political activity? And the point is even stronger if the person, by surrendering, or being required to renounce all other national ties, has thereby forsworn use of the exit option when policies do not turn out as she favors.
Dual-citizenship advocates routinely tout the beneficial effects of dual citizens living here on democratizing the politics of their home countries. No data exists to support this contention. However, it is quite possible that leaders aspiring to power will promise reforms that benefit those dual citizens abroad who might support them. They in turn might well support those who favor a broadening of their rights — economic or political. This narrow form of interest group politics is surely not what advocates have in mind when they discuss the virtues of multiple voting and allegiances. It seems clear then the politics of dual citizens might well be self-interested without necessarily being more widely democratic.
The Domestic Context of Dual Citizenship
American National Culture in Transition
States have become increasing diverse because of changes in their immigration laws. We are now more "racially," ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse that any time in our history. There are advantages to such diversity. A country can be enriched by different points of view, traditions, and contributions. However, the context of expectations, both those that immigrants bring with them and those already present in their country of arrival, makes an enormous difference in the level of integration which is attempted and accomplished
Therefore, any serious discussion of the implications of dual citizenship for the United States must take into account a fundamental fact of contemporary American cultural and political life. It must consider the extent to which the fundamental personal, institutional, and cultural understandings that have provided the unum for this country's pluribus have increasingly become matters of contention. There is little disagreement that American national culture and identity are changing (Smelser and Alexander, 1999). The question, and it is a profound one, is whether it is doing so for better or worse.
That debate is usually, and I think too narrowly, framed in terms of common values.18 A major problem with a focus on values is that they are too abstract. Who doesn't believe in democracy? Who is against opportunity? One is reminded of the classic study that found that almost every American supported free speech, until asked about the first specific application of the principle which was controversial (Prothro and Grigg, 1960).
The consequence of discussing these issues at the rarified level of highly abstract categories is that it leads easily to conflicts over who really is rightful heir to the values being discussed, a focus on artificial similarities, or an ambivalent and ultimately confused effort to stake out an olympian "middle ground." So, for example, one can argue, as one advocate does in the case of abortion, that supporters and opponents really hold the same common values and beliefs. How is that possible?
Well, according to Steven Seidman (1999, 177), they don't disagree "on a women's right to have sex, [nor] on the value of her life and the life of her children, and not on the broader social and sexual values such as the individual's right to be sexual, the linking of sex to affection or love [or the importance of the family]." I'm certain those who support limits on abortion would be surprised to learn that they share the exact same reverence for human life as those who advocate abortion without limits. Moreover, I doubt that most Americans, even those who believe "in a woman's right to have sex," would approve of their daughters doing so at any age, with any person or persons, and at the expense of a stable, loving, long-term relationship. In short, when they are not riddled with errors and non sequiturs, such highly abstract commonalties do little to address or resolve the real issues involved.
Finally, one can find examples of those who wish to be on both sides of the issues simultaneously. The result is confusion for any trying to follow their arguments. Thus, in the introduction to their recent book, editors Neil Smelser and Jeffrey Alexander (1999, 3,8,9,11) warn us that a glance at earlier periods of intense polarized conflict "highlights not only the uniqueness of contemporary cultural emphasis, but also the unique polarizing nature of the rhetoric." Should Americans worry? No, because the contemporary sense of decline and anxiety about social cohesion is "nothing new," and "The nation does not seem to be at a turning point." The problem with this position, as one of the contributing authors to the book, John Higham (1999), points out in connection with immigration, is that in many ways the contemporary forms of immigrant incorporation do not resemble the past, and are much more worrisome. Nor is the fact that the country has "not yet reached a turning point," if that is accurate, reason not be concerned about the direction in which the country appears to be heading.
There might appear to be something worth worrying about, since the authors do characterize the country as having "deep structural strains and cultural polarization." However, they are reassured that "common values are still a social reality." What common values are these? Highly abstract ones like "belief in democracy" and "the value of American life."
They are further reassured that, "expanding commercialized popular culture, reflected in everything from musical hits to sports stars to fast foods and afternoon talk shows, is a homogenizing cultural focus that pervades differences of religion, ethnicity, and social class." Or, as another one of the book's authors, Viviana Zelizer (1999, 198), notes, "In an age of diversity, it seems, commonality can only be found at the mall." I am not certain that these particular common values are what others have in mind when they worry about the decline of values which have defined common understandings of American cultural and political life.
However, appearances are deceiving, because it turns out homogenization is not incompatible with diversification. Even currency, that most universal of mediums, shows evidence of becoming segmented along ethnic, race, class, sexual orientation, and gender lines. New monetary instruments like affinity cards are marketed as a form of multicultural money — the Rainbow Card (for homosexuals), the Unity Visa Card (for Americans of African decent), and so on (Zelizer, 1999, 197).
The problem here is that all these commercialized cultural markets do not necessarily lead to integrated communities. Nor is it clear that, just because different groups recognize and adopt specific designer labels, their shared values are anything more than skin deep. Not recognizing this, it is easier to see evidence of our cohesion in a "shared culture and tradition — whether authentic or ersatz." Yet, in coherent, integrated societies and cultures, it is the former experiences which are more likely to be predominant.
Americans may agree at the stratospheric level that democracy is best. However, that hasn't exempted any of our major social, cultural, or political institutions or patterns of traditional practice from acute conflicts over the specific ways in which they are constituted and operate. That is, after all the meaning of the phrase "culture wars." Actually, though, that term is inaccurate since the reality is that there are a series of wars — "science wars," "history wars," "school wars," "military-culture wars," "gender wars," "family wars," and "policy wars" — on every domestic issue from affirmative action to welfare.
Yes, it is true that if you examine public opinion polls on a variety of contentious issues, there is a consensual political center (DiMaggio, Evans, and Bryson 1996). Yet, is also true that in every major sphere of American life, the basic agreements that allow these institutions and practices to be effective, integrated parts of social, cultural, and political life are permeated by conflict, often severe. The legitimacy of America's basic institutions and practices are no longer a matter of fact, but rather of debate.
American Character in Transition?
Historically, there have been many answers to the famous question the Frenchman J.H. St. John de Creveceour (1970 , 43-44) asked, "What, then, is the American, this new man?" Those answers have included specifically American ideals, customs, "creeds," emotional attachments, values, or psychologies.19 However, it seems clear that the origin of American national culture can be traced to the twin motivations behind the establishment of the first colonies, and the psychology necessary to realize them. The twin motivations were economic and social opportunity, on one hand, and personal and political freedom, on the other. The psychology that made them possible was symbolized and reflected in the frontier, which required courage, independence, and self-reliance from those living there. Of course, the psychology of independence and self-reliance were, from the start, embedded in a setting of interpersonal, social, and community connections. After all, Natty Bumpo (Hawk-eye) had Uncas and his father Chingachgook, and even that icon of righteous individualism, the Lone Ranger, had Tonto.
Neither religious freedom nor economic opportunity were isolated, absolute values and motivations. Religious freedom was embedded in a community context. And these communities had to find ways to live with others whose beliefs differed. Communities which came together for economic opportunity co-existed with a strong belief in public, social, and political equality. No person was deemed better than any other — the ethic of "democratic egalitarianism" (Lipset, 1963, 123). From its inception then, one fundamental paradox of American national psychology was that people were expected both to fit in and stand out.
The tension between individualism and community is made evident by examining the modern evolution of American ambivalence toward achievement, belonging, and independence. These are well captured in David Riesman's (1950) influential theory of "inner- and other-directedness." It is often not appreciated that Riesman's "other-directed" and "inner-directed" are two of three forms of conformity. In Riesman's theory, the "inner-directed" person has simply internalized general social norms in a society in which population and economic changes have made learning the details of social customs ("tradition-directed" psychologies) too complex and cumbersome to individually teach and maintain. Such persons, of course, could stand against elements of the community, but the point was that they weren't often required to do so.
Internalizing the generalized standards of a community worked well, but only if those standards were relatively stable. If not, the skill most needed, and rewarded, was the ability to ascertain just what standards were expected and adapt accordingly. Riesman's post-war America was a society characterized by large-scale social and economic changes. It was also one in which these changes coincided with the development of large-scale social institutions in which efficient performance depended on teamwork. In such circumstances, being "other-directed" was an economic asset, as well as a socially-valued skill and personality trait.
Moreover, increasing financial security and the mass production of an increasingly large number of symbols of success became more widely available though most strata of American society. How do you tell where you stand in Levittown? You keep up with Joneses, but you don't want to stand out, or stand apart.
The achievement ethic of the sixties was quite different. "Tune in, turn on, drop out" was an invitation to withdraw from the traditional cultural practices surrounding achievement. From that vantage point, achievement is certainly not measured by the accumulation of wealth, but by inner "peace" and self-understanding. The realization of one's own unique internal blueprint is the goal and self-enlightenment is the means. Conformity to "conventional" values or views is seen as absolutely antithetical to achieving self-realization. Cole Porter's signature composition, "Anything Goes," seems an apt theme song for a cultural movement in which "do your own thing" and "let it all hang out" are taken as essential cultural cues.
It is not as great a psychological distance as it might seem at first from Riesman's other-directed character to Christopher Lasch's (1979) "culture of narcissism." In Riesman's "other-directed" character the extensive veneer of sociability became a well-refined tool for "making it." Achievement is still paramount, and competition continues unabated. However, now success is achieved in group settings, by fitting in, not by self-reliance. Autonomous thinking, or fidelity to an independent sense of personal values and ideals is a minority position. It becomes a cause for others' concern, not admiration. Small wonder that Arthur Miller's Willy Loman proved a more accurate fictional representative of his time than Ann Ryan's Ned Rorak.
The lack of any firmly established internal psychological compass makes people vulnerable to the temptations of increasing abundance and repeated messages that delayed consumption is unnecessary and perhaps even odd. In the past, Lasch noted, the American penchant for self-improvement had been associated with achieving something solid and lasting. However, in an age which promised "you could have it all," or advised you to "be all that you can be," when some professional psychologists touted "self-actualization" as the north star of psychological development, enticing images of endless and easy satisfaction trumped the hard work of building a satisfying life.20 Consumption might well fuel an economy, but an increasing emphasis on "self-fulfillment"21 could not quiet increasing feelings of emptiness, isolation, and dissatisfaction.
Lasch, writing in the aftermath of the "me" and "now" generations, viewed American private and public life as increasingly dominated by aggressively ambitious and self-centered individuals. One might characterize it as a culture of selfish individualism. Riesman (1980) agreed, and while finding evidence of narcissistic elements elsewhere in American history, nonetheless thought that what was different now was the public acceptance and even "approval" of clearly "self-serving conduct." This is certainly one way to understand the general public acceptance of a president whose behavior brought about his impeachment — but who did so in a time of increasing economic well-being (Renshon, 1998).
Surveying Americans in the eighties, at a time of economic insecurity, Daniel Yankelovich found us increasingly turning away from the fusion of relentless ambition for mobility and the work ethic that had been part of American culture for centuries.22 He views (1981, xviii-xix) the turn inward as a response to diminished economic opportunities and expectations. Yet, he also sees in this turn inward a new effort to resolve the dilemmas raised by a firm commitment to ambitious self-advancement in a context of stagnant mobility. In these circumstances, the "rat race" seems less attractive, and the ambiguous, but still ambitious, phrase "self-fulfillment" much more so.
Paradoxically and "emphatically," he (1981, xviii) does not see self-fulfillment as the middle-class version of counter-cultural narcissism. Although he does note that, in its more extreme forms, "the new rules simply turn the old ones on their head, and in place of the old self-denial ethic [delay of gratification], we find people who refuse to deny anything to themselves — not out of bottomless appetite, but on the strange moral principle that ‘I have a duty to myself.'"
How are the duties to oneself reconciled, if they are, with the traditional American commitment to community and interpersonal ideals and values? Easily. Self-fulfillment, being an entirely personal matter, requires those who pursue it to simply adopt the cultural code: "Live and let live." Or as Yankelovich (1981, 88) notes, "Traditional concepts of right and wrong have been replaced by norms of ‘harmful,' or ‘harmless.' If one's action are not seen as penalizing others, even if they are ‘wrong' from the perspective of traditional morality, they no longer meet much opposition."
Unlike the 1960s, in which "counterculture" adherents dismissed "traditional" values as bourgeois and confining, the new ethic is summed up by what has become almost an eleventh commandment, "Thou shall not judge." The "non-judgmentalism of middle-class Americans," in matters of religion, family, and other personal values emerges as the major finding of Wolfe's (1998) in-depth interviews with Americans across the country. He attributes it to an emphasis on pragmatism rather than values in making tough personal decisions, a reluctance to second guess the tough choices of other people, and ambivalence or confusion as the "default" moral position.23 Needless to say, a strong ethic of self-fulfillment coupled with the view that whatever I, or anyone else does, which doesn't directly harm anyone else is all right "often collides violently with traditional rules, creating a national battle of cultural norms" (Yankelovich, 198, 5).
So, immigrants arriving into America arrive in a country where not only the basic legitimacy of the culture's institutions and practices are at issue — they arrive as well in a culture in which the basic psychology necessary to sustain the founding principles of freedom and opportunity are eroding. Strong, independent-minded convictions and the courage to maintain fidelity to them, independence and the ability to stand apart from others if necessary, and self-reliance are becoming increasingly scarce. The pervasive complaint that one group or another has been victimized because of disparities runs counter to the historically and psychologically deeply embedded connection between the intensity, consistency, and quality of efforts to achieve one's ambitions and the possibilities of doing so. Demands for equality regardless of achievement and tolerance regardless of behavior are increasingly becoming the ethic by which Americans are being asked to live.
Dual Citizenship and the Integration of Immigrants
What are the implications of changes in American national culture and psychology for the very large number of dual-citizenship immigrants entering the country in these new circumstances? Two very basic consequences seem clear. First, the cultural stability of the receiving country makes a critical difference. Immigrants, whether from countries that allow or discourage multiple citizenships, enter into different cultural circumstances in countries in which the primary culture is stable and secure and those in which it is not. Conversely, multiple citizenship has different meanings and implications in these two different circumstances. It seems quite clear that immigrants entering into a country whose cultural assumptions are fluid and "contested" will find it harder to assimilate, even if they wish to do so. In such a circumstance, dual-citizenship immigrants are more likely to maintain former cultural/country attachments than risk the development and consolidation of newer cultural/country identifications.
Second, a country in which the institutional operation and legitimacy of assimilation to its ways of life is under attack and weakened is different than one in which is not. In the past, assimilation, with its implications that there is a legitimate and worthwhile national identity and immigrants choosing to come here should, in good faith, try to accommodate it, was both the expectation and the reality.24 Today, neither is true. Assimilation is equated in some quarters (Takaki, 1993) with forced and unnecessary demands for conformity to a culture that has little legitimate basis for asking for it.
There is also a question as to which America immigrants should assimilate. Is it the traditional America of personal responsibility and initiative, hard work, and an eye to the future? Or, is it the America of narcissism, self-indulgence, and entitlement-level expectations? Both exist and operate here.
The evidence seems to suggest that if assimilation means internalizing the latter, immigrants may be right in thinking twice. A recent study by the National Research Council (1998) found that adolescents born in the United States to immigrant parents suffer poorer health and engage in riskier behaviors than children born in other countries who then move here with their parents. Dr. Kathleen Mullan Harris (quoted in the press release accompanying the study) who headed the study of 20,000 randomly selected students said, "Foreign-born youth experience fewer physical health problems, have less experience with sex, are less likely to engage in delinquent and violent behavior, and are less likely to use controlled substances than native-born youth." For example, foreign-born Mexican youth are less likely than native-born youth of Mexican parents to miss school for a health or emotional problem, to have learning difficulties, to be obese, or to suffer asthma. They also are less likely to have had sex, to engage in delinquent or violent acts, or to use three or more controlled substances.
Arriving into a solidly assimilationist receiving culture is very different from entering into a porous and "contested" one. Yet it is also true that arriving in a culture that contains powerful and corrosive elements raises the question: Do we want immigrants and citizens to assimilate these elements? The evidence suggests that the idea that immigrant values will rescue those aspects of American culture that need revitalization is a hopeful fiction.
This is one further reason why immigrants might well be tempted to maintain and further develop psychological attachments and loyalties to their "home" countries, and their traditions, values, customs, ways of viewing the world, and the psychologies that these reflect. Technology aids and abets the processes that discourage immigrant integration. In the past, one might be an Italian, but the ability to read Italian newspapers, or to keep up with the news in your local village or city were limited and the chance to see your country of origin was a seminal life event. Today that is far from the case.
Jet travel and its accessibility to all but the most financially marginal have erased boundaries of time and geography. Paul Slambrouck (2000) wrote that Mexico’s Consul General estimated that Christmas holiday pilgrimages back to Mexico by Mexican-Americans averaged two to three million border crossings a day last year. Internet access to newspapers and people has likewise eroded distances. Anxiety about finding psychological grounding in a culture that allows, perhaps even encourages, the diffusion of the traditional sources of individual identity leads people to seek it somewhere, anywhere. The unprecedented search for "roots" can best be understood in a society with anxieties about rootlessness. Whether one applauds or laments this development in the United States, it is important to keep this fact in view.
The impact of multiple citizenship immigrants coming into this country varies as a function of the context in which their older and newer attachments unfold. Surely when over 85 percent of the very large number of immigrants that the United States admits each year are from countries which encourage multiple citizenships, it is time to carefully consider the implications. When immigrants enter a country in which the assumption that they should be motivated to adapt to the values and traditions of the country they have chosen is fiercely debated and the question of "assimilation to what?" is increasingly difficult to answer, dual citizenship in America is indeed truly an issue of vast proportions and broad significance.
The United States is facing a unprecedented set of circumstances with regard to multiple citizenships. It is a country whose culture and politics were forged around allegiance to a set of principles and practices contained within a specific territory, with a specific history and a specific identity — American. It was not organized around a specific ethnically-based nationality, as were European countries, but rather a more generalized one — American. You could come from any geographical, ethnic, racial, or religious origin and still be welcomed, though not always unambivalently, to develop an American nationality.
That American nationality does have distinctive elements. It has long been associated with the American "creed," which is to say, support for democracy and tolerance (Huntington, 1981). Yet it is also a nationality that prefers and works to develop a specific set of psychologies. We prefer self-reliance to dependence, moderation to excess, optimism to futility, pragmatism to rhetoric, and reflection to impulsiveness — to name a few of those elements.
These are, of course, the core characteristics of the "Protestant ethic." Yet critics like Aleinikoff (1999) are wrong in asserting that concerns with assimilation mask a demand to conform to what he terms "Anglo/White culture." The genius of American national culture and identity is that over time they have become decoupled from ethnicity, separated from religion, and detached even from "race." In all these aspects, this ethic — really these elements of national psychology — have repeatedly proved to be open and inclusive, even if not always wholeheartedly.
Successive waves of immigrants — the Irish, Jews, "blacks" from Trinidad or the Bahamas, educated Hispanics of all nationalities, South Asians, Chinese, and Japanese — were certainly not Protestant, definitely not "Anglo," or never considered "white." Yet all of these groups have found a successful place in American society. Not a place realized without difficulty, not a place in which everyone is a success, but a place realized nonetheless.
Becoming an American then is not simply a matter of agreeing that democracy is the best form of government. It is a commitment to a psychology and the way of life that flows from it. And it ultimately entails an appreciation of, a commitment to, and even love for, all that this country stands for and provides.
It is easy to view America instrumentally. It is a place of enormous personal freedom and great economic opportunities. America has always recognized that many arrive seeking those treasures which are in such short supply in so many of the countries from which they come. The fear that self-interest will come at the expense of developing an appreciation and a genuine emotional connection to the country has, I think, always been the sub-text of attempts to ensure that new arrivals became "American."
That has been the trade off. America takes the chance that it can leverage self-interest and transform it to authentic commitment. Immigrants agree in coming here to reorient themselves toward their new lives and away from their old ones. This involves some basics — learning English, understanding the institutions and practices that define American culture, and reflecting on the ways in which their search for freedom and opportunity fit in with the history, with all its vicissitudes, that have shaped the idea and promise of America. It is only at that point, that the transformation from self-interest to genuine emotional connection can be made.
Bourne’s Vision Revisited
It is important to underscore here that the recourse to "common values" as the glue which holds America together is directly contrary to the vision that Bourne (1916) enunciated of a "Trans-national America." Hyphenated Americans would retain and develop their ties to their "countries of origin" or home countries and that would make each group more "valuable and interesting to each other." Moreover, these sustained and enhanced national origin differences would spur the development of an "intellectual sympathy," which gets to the "heart of different cultural expressions," and enable each person in one group to feel "as they [the other group members] feel." That, in Bourne’s view, would be the basis of the new cosmopolitan outlook, transnational identity, that he favored. Americans would be bound together by the sum of their differences, a remarkable psychological assertion, as is his further assertion that such an "intellectual internationalism...will unite and not divide."
There are several basic inconsistencies at the heart of Bourne’s vision. An "intellectual sympathy" that "gets to the heart of different cultural expressions" and allows one to feel as the other group members feel is inconsistent with known psychological theory. Empathy is primarily an emotional attunement, not an intellectual one. The idea that I know how you feel, because I check with my own views of how I would feel if I were in a parallel circumstance, essentially assumes you are just like me.
Is "intellectual internationalism" only an agreement to disagree? You have your group tie and I have mine and we agree to allow each other to do so? Bourne doubtlessly modeled his idea on Americans’ allegiance to common values like democracy and liberty. However, beneath the superstructure of abstract principles, there are some clear limits and the mechanisms to enforce them. I may advocate the violent overthrow of the government if I am a communist theoretician in a study group, but not if I’m the leader of an action cell buying guns.
Whose view prevails when different understandings of "intellectual internationalism" are at issue? Who gets to decide? This is not a matter of an abstract and ethereal belief that differences rooted in basic cultural experiences and views "will unite and not divide." These matters comes up routinely in newly multicultural societies with democratic traditions. Consider the question of whether a democratic country committed to the equality of women should allow what, to some groups, are the accepted cultural practices of female circumcision or polygamy.
Bhikhu Parekh (1996, 254-55) has thoughtfully tried to square this intellectual circle. However, like all such attempts at theoretical alchemy, there is a large element of substantive evasion of the basic realities. He lists five possible resolutions of these dilemmas: (1) the hope for universal values which will eventually transcend differences (moral universalism), (2) the primacy of core values which allows a society to distinguish those it will and will not tolerate (core values), (3) the view of society as so deeply split among class, gender and other lines that no values can hold and the uniting principle must be "do not harm," (4) "human rights" as the ultimate value, a combination of 1 and 2, and (5) the encouragement of an "open minded and serious dialogue with minority spokesmen and to act on the resulting consensus" (dialogical consensus).
He focuses on each view’s weaknesses and not their strengths and concludes (1996, 255) obviously enough that none of these views is "wholly satisfactory." Nonetheless, choices must be made, as for example, whether a democracy should allow the cultural practice of polygamy. Parekh is a tolerant democrat which means he is loathe to impose values on anyone. Therefore, he favors "dialogical consensus." The only problem here is that conflicting, deeply held beliefs may generate more talk than agreement. What is to be done then?
He answers: Minorities whose beliefs run directly counter to the premises on which the society operates must acquiesce. Or to put it in Parekh’s (1996, 259) more gentle phrasing, "Since deep disagreements cannot be always satisfactorily solved...if the majority remains genuinely unpersuaded [after serious dialogue], its values need to prevail." Why? The reason is found in the fact that every society develops "operative public values," those that they live by and which are embedded in their institutions, practices, and moral understandings." They are (1996, 261), "the only moral standpoint from which to evaluate minority [cultural/social] practices."
Parekh (1996, 265-83) goes to great lengths to urge a real dialogue with those whose practices are inconsistent with "operative public values" and gives a good accounting for the arguments for and against the practice of polygamy. Yet, in the end, he is both judge and jury. The demand from some quarters to ban arranged marriages because they are coercive, for example, he calls "unjustified" because the practice, "while it has no religious or cultural basis.... means a great deal to Asians." (1996, 267)
A request for circumcision from an adult female? Well, she "should be at liberty to demand any circumcisions she prefers." (1996, 271) However, there are "complicating factors." What are these? Well, perhaps there is community pressure. How can one tell? Simple — if one woman wishes to do it, there is no pressure, but if more than one wishes to, there is, and it shouldn’t be allowed. Why community wishes which have no basis in group religion or culture (for arranged marriage) are not seen as coercive, while those that do have such a basis are seen as unacceptable, is not made clear.
Polygamy? After rehearsing the arguments that Muslims might make in favor of that practice, Parekh pronounces them "unconvincing" (1996, 282). Assigning his own weighting system to the arguments he presents in favor of banning the practice, he says they "ought to go a long way in convincing the Muslim clerics of the value of monogamy." Perhaps. However, it is quite unlikely that a devout Muslim would weigh the arguments as has Parekh.
He concludes, "Western society, then, has the right to ban the practice of polygyny [polygamy]." What of possibly accepting polygamy? Well (1996, 283, emphasis mine):
If the current inequality of power and status, self-esteem, etc. between men and women were to end so that women could be depended upon to make equally uncoerced choices, if a sizable section of society were freely to opt for polygamy, and if the latter could be shown not to have the harmful consequences mentioned earlier, there would be a case for permitting it. Since this is not the case today, we are right to disallow it.
Parekh’s willingness to entertain the practice rests on what can only be called a wholesale and fundamental transformation of the very culture and its practices that give authority to the claim. He is essentially saying that polygyny would be allowed when the culture reaches the stage where it no longer wishes it. One is reminded here of Stanley Fish’s complaint about "boutique multiculturalism":
A boutique multiculturalist may honor the tenets of religions other than his own, but he will draw the line when the adherents of a religion engage in the practice of polygamy. In ... these cases (and in many analogous cases that could be instanced) the boutique multiculturalist resists the force of the appreciated culture at precisely the point at which it matters most to the strongly committed members...(1998, 69-70).
Yes. Exactly. And, doesn’t it have to be exactly that way for a coherent, integrated, and functional culture to exist and work? I will return to that central question at the conclusion of this analysis.
Bourne’s enthusiasm for his vision is understandable. He was a social critic, and he wrote well before the advent of advances in the understanding of human psychology which might have caused him to question some of his premises. The same cannot be said for his contemporary champions (Aleinikoff, 1998a, b). No psychological theory of identity with which I am familiar finds that the more deeply immersed and central your own cultural identity becomes, the more open you are to experience other equally strongly held, and very different, identities.
Clinical and psychological literature is quite clear. People who have deeply held convictions, an identity based on common values, cultures, psychologies, world views, and so on, are much more likely to take their identities as given, the ways things are and the way they ought to be. There is no evidence historically or empirically that taking your Japanese identity seriously makes you more open-minded toward Africans. Or, that growing up with a strong identity as an Italian or Moroccan makes you better able to feel what it is like to be an Israeli. When cultural identities are "contested," a lack of sympathy and empathy can easily turn to hostility and hatred.
Finally, in a country whose citizens are drawn from every country in the world, is it realistic, and not just fanciful, to believe that Somalis will learn about and empathize with Italians, who will in turn do the same with Filipinos, who in turn will now do the same with all the remaining peoples and cultures that make up this diverse country? Simply to ask the question is to underscore the limits to such a vision. There are cognitive, emotional, and practical barriers to the amount of information one can take in and make use of, even if one is inclined to, which is another large presumption of Bourne’s theory. To add to this burden the view that it is possible to have the desire and capacity for empathy for all the different cultures and groups that now populate America stretches that vision past reality.
Dual Citizenship and Conflict: The War of 1812 Redux?
Advocates of dual citizenship look to the past, and reassure us that we are unlikely to go to war over dual citizenship, as we did with the British in 1812 (Spiro, 1997, 1422-1423; see also David Martin, 1999, 20) . That conflict arose when the British, then following the "perpetual allegiance" theory of citizenship, forcibly tried to repatriate American citizens at sea. Yes, it is true that we will not go to war with Britain over these kinds of matters (Russett, 1993). However, Spiro takes his argument further. He says we we should "embrace dual nationalism" because:
The prospective spectacle of millions of Mexican-American dual nationals lining up at their consulates to vote in Mexican elections, on the one hand, and the possibility of their voting in high concentration in some U.S. elections on the other, suffices to justify the enterprise [e.g., reappraising dual nationality]...however the oddity of these developments should not by itself provoke resistance. In fact, under the standard of earlier times, dual nationality now poses little threat to the polity. (1997, 1460; see also 1468, fn 246)
What are these standards of earlier times to which Spiro refers? Is it the fact that "democracies rarely make war on each other?" Clearly so, because he argues that it was war "that ultimately made dual citizenship so problematic in hostile world. In a malign incarnation they could undermine from within by doing the command of their other allegiance, threatening the polity at a fundamental level." (1997, 1461)
Spiro is raising the spectre here that dual citizens might be treasonous because of their mixed loyalties in wartime, but asks us not to worry about this because democracies now rarely go to war. This is an extremely odd argument for an advocate of dual citizenship to make. If mixed loyalties are so dangerous to this Republic that treason is a major issue — and I am not arguing that it is — then the fact that we rarely go to war with other democracies is small comfort.
The fact of the matter is that many of the 92 immigrant-sending, dual-citizenship-encouraging countries are not democracies. Of the top-20 immigrant-sending countries to the United States (see Renshon, 2000a, 6 — Table 2), which account for 84 percent of our total number of immigrants each year, only two — Canada and the United Kingdom — are relatively peaceful and mature democracies. Most are not democratic (Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc.) and the rest are fledgling democracies often with large and deeply rooted authoritarian strains (Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Russia, Ukraine, etc.) or continued histories of religious and communal violence.
Moreover, democracies do still have armed conflicts with non-democracies. And, as David Martin (1999, 8, fn 23) points out, "If relaxed rules on dual nationality are adopted or expanded over the coming decades, persons with such a mix of citizenship (one democratic and one non-democratic) will doubtlessly make up a significant percentage." Martin adds the "especially worrisome cloud" of the rise of ethnic tensions and identity politics which increase the structural fault lines in a large number of what he terms "polyglot nations," of which the United States is surely now one.
He is not wrong to worry. In Santa Ana, Calif., former Vietnamese communists and their non-communist counterparts scuffled during a protest against an art show's positive depiction of the communist regime (The New York Times, 1999). In a similar incident, the decision of a Vietnamese immigrant to drape a communist flag across the front of his store sparked thousands to protest (Sanchez, 1999).
In Miami, in the Elian Gonzalez case, residents of South Miami, backed by their local government, said they would defy federal orders to hand the boy over to immigration authorities. A New York Times reporter who covered the story wrote:
To many people here, some who cheered and some who shuddered, it was a declaration of independence for a part of the country that is, increasingly, a nation apart. People have even begun to greet each other with: 'Welcome to the Independent Republic of Miami.' Latin Americans make up the overwhelming majority, and English has faded from homes, offices, and stores. But it is the Cuban exiles who drive the county's economy, politics and culture, and it is Cuba's flag, not the United States', in the windows of shops, on car antennas and on the mural behind the Chevrolet dealership on Le Jeune Road (Bragg, 2000).
During the recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East, large groups of anti-Israeli/pro-Arab demonstrators held noisy protests here at which several were arrested. (Waldman, 2000; see also Barry and Christian, 2000). During this period several Jewish synagogues were vandalized (Chivers, 2000).
And, in the aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks, Americans focused on those from Arab or Muslim countries living here. Allegations by Arab-American advocacy groups have fueled concerns of "intolerant behavior" (Edsall 2001). Leaders, in turn, have admonished against such behavior (Sachs 2001). Yet beneath the obvious tensions toward Arabs and Muslims caused by the religious identity of the terrorists and the obvious fact that almost all Arabs and Muslims living here are not terrorists, lie a more complicated set of issues.
In one of the few systematic in-depth studies of identifications of Muslim immigrants with their country of origin and the United States, GhaneaBassiri (1997), an Iranian doctoral student at Harvard, found that they are extremely ambivalent about this country. More specifically, GhaneaBassiri found "a significant number of Muslims, particularly immigrant Muslims, do not have close ties or loyalty to the United States." Indeed, his questionnaire showed that 80 percent of his sample of Muslims in Los Angeles and a third of those who had converted to the Muslim religion felt more allegiance to a foreign country than to the United States.
Given these facts, the optimistic belief of multiple-citizenship advocates that inter-nation conflict that has implications for dual citizens is an historical relic seems to be a case of wishful thinking. The evidence simply does not support such naive optimism. Yet, while international military conflicts that engage or test the loyalties of dual citizens in this country cannot be easily ruled out, the real problem is not war, but cohesion.
Do Multiple Loyalties Equal Conflicted Loyalties?
Loyalty is a complex concept and an even more complex emotion. Psychologically, it is basically an attachment to, a sense of identification with, and feelings "toward a person, place, or thing."25 These can run from the shallow to the profound, from the episodic to the immutable, and from the singular to the diverse.
Primary nationality, the one that we are born into, begins to take root very early, indeed before the child is born. The history and practices that brought a particular couple together are themselves influenced by the cultural expectations and understandings that they acquired while growing up in their country and culture. How they prepare for their child and how they relate to her is also conditioned by the same factors. And of course, the parents speak to the child in their own language, soon to be his, and as he grows they are the guides and interpreters of the culture he must learn and transverse. The process of being embedded in, and attached to, one's country of origin begins early.
Children begin to incorporate the symbols of their nationality and country very early. E.L. Horowitz (1940) found that 25 percent of a sample of first-graders in Tennessee chose the American flag as best, and that by seventh grade the number doing so was 100 percent. E.D. Lawson (1963) later replicated that study in an urban-suburban New York sample and found that from kindergarten, children put the stars and stripes first. Eugene A. Weinstein (1957) found that the first notions of another country, ours as "good" and other countries as "bad," began as early as five years old. The emotional attachments to country clearly begin much earlier than the cognitive development level necessary to sustain an intellectual understanding of the concepts (Jahoda, 1973). Indeed, that is precisely the fulcrum of their lifelong power.
Summing up a variety of such early studies, A.F. Davis concludes:
The main lesson...is how early [they develop] and how closely they conform to a relatively stable and complex order of preferences appropriate to their American nationality...it runs through all grades, it is common to boys and girls, impervious to the syllabus, and remarkably resistant to background factors like family social status or region. (1968, 114)
What is the point of these studies? Just this: Loyalty to a nation and feelings of attachment to it begin at a primal age and become increasing consolidated as the child develops. Which is why people are willing to die for their country, why great national accomplishments bring pride, and why the symbols of a country — the flag, a constitution — carry such great emotional weight and political power.
It is why a New York Times reporter, covering the attitudes of African immigrants to this country could write, "Many African immigrants say that whether they stay here for two or 20 years, Africa is, and always will be, home." (Waldman, 1999) It is why the Funeraria Latina — owned by funeral industry giant Service Corporation International — transports 80 percent of its bodies out of the United States (Finley, 1998). It is why Alejandro Ruiz, who left Mexico and began work on landscaping crews around Denver, became a U.S. citizen, raised 10 children, 40 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren here, can still say he wants to be buried at "home," meaning Mexico. He says, "My heart is here, but it's also there...Even though here I made money, enough to feed my family — it was easier for me to make a living here — I will go back to Mexico. When I die, I must go back to Mexico." (quoted in Finley, 1998)
It is why Lan Samantha Chang (1999), a novelist writing in response to the Wen Ho Lee case, could say in a New York Times op-ed piece entitled "Debunking the Dual Loyalty Myth," "True, many immigrants have strong ties to their countries of birth...But cultural or familial loyalties are on a different level from political allegiances...I love China, but I am a citizen of the United States." Ms. Chang appears to want to distinguish a love for one's "home" country from being willing to commit treason against one's adopted one. This is obviously a fair, reasonable, and appropriate distinction.
Yet, in the process of making such a distinction, she acknowledges the duality of her feelings. The issue is not between love of one's country of origin and treason, but rather the multiple loyalties that appear to be part of many immigrants' psychology.
A person with dual citizenship is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Dual citizenship, sometimes called dual nationality, happens automatically in some situations, such as when a child is born in the United States to foreign parents. Unless the parents are foreign diplomats, the child generally becomes a citizen of the United States as well as of the parents’ home nation. Similarly, if a child of U.S. citizens is born overseas, he or she may automatically become a citizen of both the United States and the country of birth, depending on that country’s laws.
Dual citizenship can also be achieved through specialized legal processes, such as when a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen. In this case, dual citizenship is not automatic but is possible if the foreign national has been a permanent resident (a green card holder) for at least three years, has been living in marital union with a U.S. citizen spouse during that time, and meets other eligibility requirements.
While the United States allows dual citizenship without necessarily promoting it, not all countries do (see a list here). In the above example, the foreign national’s home country may allow dual citizenship, or it may cancel the person’s citizenship when he or she becomes naturalized as a U.S. citizen. Dual citizenship is complex. Read on for the benefits and obligations of being a citizen of two countries.
The Advantages of Dual Citizenship
Benefits and privileges: Dual citizens can receive the benefits and privileges offered by each country. For example, they have access to two social service systems, can vote in either country and may be able to run for office in either country, depending on the law. They are also allowed to work in either country without needing a work permit or visa and can attend school in either country at the citizen tuition rate.
Two passports: As a dual citizen, you are allowed to carry passports from both countries. For example, if you are a U.S. citizen and also a citizen of New Zealand, you can travel more easily between the two countries. Having a citizen's passport eliminates the need for long-stay visas and questioning about the purpose of your trip. It also guarantees right of entry to both countries, which can be especially important if you have family to visit, are a student or do business in either country.
Property ownership: Another benefit of dual citizenship is the ability to own property in either country. Some countries restrict land ownership to citizens only, and as a legal citizen of two countries, you would be able to purchase property in either – or both – countries. If you travel frequently between the two countries, this might be especially useful since property ownership might offer a more economical way to live in two places. (For related reading, see Planning for Retirement Abroad.)
Cultural education: As a dual citizen you'll reap the benefits of being immersed in the culture of two countries. Some government officials are also fond of dual citizenship and see it as a way to promote the country's image as a prime destination for tourists. Perhaps the best upside is self-satisfaction of learning about the history of both countries, a new language, and different way of life.
The Drawbacks of Dual Citizenship
Dual obligations: As a dual citizen, you are bound by the laws of both countries. For example, if you are a citizen of the United States and a country with mandatory military service, you can lose your U.S. citizenship under certain circumstances, such as if you serve as an officer in a foreign military that is engaged in a war against the United States. In general, U.S. policy recognizes that dual citizens might be legally obligated to fulfill military obligations abroad, and many can do so without jeopardizing their U.S. citizen status, but it is important to research each situation carefully.
Double taxation: The United States imposes taxes on its citizens for income earned anywhere in the world. If you are a dual citizen living abroad, you might owe taxes both to the United States and to the country where the income was earned. Income tax treaties are in effect, however, between the United States and many other countries that reduce or eliminate a U.S. citizen’s tax liability in the United States. A treaty between the United States and New Zealand, for example, overrides the income tax laws of each country to avoid double taxation. Even so, dual citizens may be required to file U.S. tax returns. Because tax laws are complicated and can change from year to year, be sure to consult with a qualified tax accountant. (For some cheerier tax news, see Do You Get U.S. Tax Deductions on Real Estate Abroad?)
Security clearance: Depending on your career path, dual citizenship can be a disadvantage. If you are seeking a position with the U.S government or access to classified information, having dual citizenship can prevent you from gaining the security clearance you need to work in these fields. Those born into dual citizenship may encounter fewer problems than those who actively sought it out.
Complicated process: Sometimes dual citizenship happens automatically, as is the case when a child is born in the United States to foreign parents. Other times, however, the process can take many years and can be extremely expensive. To become a U.S. citizen, you must live in the United States as a permanent resident continuously for five years (or three years if you are married to and living with the same U.S. citizen), and you must pay $1,225 to apply for permanent residency and then another $725 to file an application for citizenship, as of 2017. That does not include the cost of an immigration lawyer, a professional who can be helpful in achieving citizenship.
The Bottom Line
Dual citizens enjoy certain benefits, such as the ability to live and work freely in two countries, own property in both, and travel between the countries with relative ease. There are drawbacks, however, including the potential for double taxation, the long and expensive process for obtaining dual citizenship, and the fact that you become bound by the laws of two nations. Because dual citizenship is complex and the rules and laws regarding citizenship vary from one country to the next, be sure to consult with qualified experts, including tax accountants and experienced citizenship lawyers. (For related reading, see: How to Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test and 5 Hardest Countries for Getting Citizenship.)