- At Home in Two Countries: The Past and Future of Dual Citizenship by Peter J. Spiro
Peter J. Spiro, a leading legal scholar of immigration and citizenship with a special interest in international law, has given us a short, pithy tour d'horizon concerning the fascinating subject of dual nationality. As he explains, people are increasingly acquiring two and sometimes more nationalities. Why is dual nationality so intriguing? He suggests at least five reasons.
First, the historical dimension. The evolution of dual citizenship tracks some of the most important developments in world history. Traditionally, states treated their inhabitants as subjects with few if any rights but imposed duties, particularly military service, taxes, and perpetual allegiance to the state. Well into the twentieth century, almost all nation-states in principle provided their subjects (or citizens in the relatively few democracies) with little more than diplomatic protection if they encountered problems while living abroad. But protecting them was mostly a way to prevent the host state from using the home state's subjects as cannon fodder that the home state needed for itself. In Spiro's telling, the centuries-long transition from a regime of single, perpetual allegiance to one in which multiple allegiances seemed both possible and plausible reflected world-transforming changes—in mobility, economics, warfare, diplomacy, state-building, individual rights, and conception of communal belonging. He skillfully traces these convulsive changes without taking his eye off the ball—the epiphenomenon of dual citizenship.
Second is the moral dimension. Theodore Roosevelt, whose chauvinism was perhaps extreme, voiced the dominant view of dual citizenship—it did not even enter our lexicon until the early twentieth century—as "a self-evident absurdity," a fatal dilution of national unity. This trope was widely echoed and took many forms: for example, dual citizenship was an offense against nature that compelled a person to serve two masters. It was tantamount to bigamy and a threat to the international order, as it encouraged divided loyalties and the formation of fifth columns within states.
Third, Spiro's account reveals an array of legal and administrative techniques that states deployed to restrict dual citizenship. Broadly speaking, dual citizenship could only be acquired in two ways—through naturalization in a foreign state and through parents with foreign nationalities able to transmit them to their children under a regime of jus sanguinis, coupled with the child's birthright citizenship in jus soli countries like the United States. In states' assaults on dual citizenship, they introduced a number of measures—for example, loss of [End Page 654] nationality if one naturalized in another state, and a requirement that the dual citizen choose between the two states at a certain age and under prescribed conditions. Some states declined to provide diplomatic protection in other states, particularly against military conscription. But as migration became more common, the notion of perpetual allegiance—the very foundation of traditional unitary membership—came under diplomatic, military, and domestic political pressures (think of our own War of 1812) and was modified or abandoned by many states. A growing movement to allow individuals to expatriate—or in some cases to impose expatriation on them—was designed to contain the dual nationality problem.
Fourth, Spiro chronicles how the tide began to turn, as the moral, diplomatic, legal, and practical anomalies of the one-person, one-nationality system became more obvious. The turning point in the United States occurred in the 1960s when several Supreme Court decisions limited the government's power to expatriate (denationalize) Americans with various ties to other states (e.g., naturalization, voting, military service, long-term residence) against their will; the government, the court held, could only divest one of citizenship if it could prove that the citizen specifically intended to shed it. In 1995, the State Department essentially surrendered to the dual citizenship trends, declaring that while it did not favor dual citizenship, it would no longer impede it.
In fact, many states have made a virtue of necessity, not just tolerating dual citizenship (they have "largely...