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Citizens of Where? By: Bill West
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, February 01, 2005

As the election process in Iraq appears to be moving with tremendous success, the sacrifices made by our valiant military heroes and their coalition allies will perhaps be a bit less painful in our collective National conscience.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note the broad electoral base, internationally, which is exercising its newly established right to vote in the Iraqi elections. And while the democratic process is a positive and wonderful thing, if also dangerous within Iraq itself at the moment, the Iraqi elections have highlighted an issue within the United States that has been around for sometime, but has existed well under the radar until now. Perhaps it’s time for the matter to be publicly reviewed, analyzed and, if needed, changed.

The issue involves “dual citizenship.”  No doubt in an effort to expand the Iraqi electorate as much as possible, especially the expatriate electorate that would likely be more inclined to vote “democratically,” the electoral officials (sanctioned by the United States, of course) have been quite liberal in who qualifies to vote as an eligible “Iraqi.”  It’s been reported that even children of Iraqi parents born in the US, who are native-born US citizens, are eligible to vote in the Iraqi election. 


Clearly, Iraqis who are still Iraqi citizens and are aliens residing in the United States are allowed to vote in the Iraqi elections.  Former Iraqi citizens who are now naturalized US citizens are also allowed to vote.  In fact, on January 29, 2005, Richard A. Boucher, State Department spokesman and Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs, appeared on MSNBC and stated that Iraqis who are naturalized US citizens should not fear voting in the Iraqi election, that voting in the election would not jeopardize their US citizenship and in fact they were encouraged to vote.  Clearly, the highest level of the US Government appears to support this “dual citizenship” concept, at least for the Iraqi elections.


This dual voting process is not new.  Expatriates from a variety of countries who are now naturalized US citizens have been voting in their “home” country elections for many years.  On the surface, is this really something with which to be concerned?  Is Mr. Boucher correct?  Does voting in another country’s election not jeopardize a naturalized US citizen’s citizenship? 


The concept of voting in a national election, at least from the perspective of the United States, is considered a basic element of national citizenship…a right reserved only to citizens of the United States.  In fact, it is a Federal felony for a non-US citizen to knowingly and willfully vote in a US national election.  It is supposed to be a serious matter. 


A review of the citizenship requirements from the website of the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) reveals that an applicant for naturalization must, among other requirements, take an oath of citizenship.  In that oath, the new US citizen must renounce any foreign allegiance.  The actual oath of allegiance is posted below from the CIS website, and it is significantly clear on the issue of renouncing not only allegiance but also “fidelity” to any foreign state or sovereignty.  Fidelity in this regard presumably means faithfulness.

Oath of Allegiance

The oath of allegiance is:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

When one becomes a naturalized US citizen and takes the oath of citizenship, they swear or affirm full allegiance and faithfulness to the United States of America.  Historically, from the perspective of citizenship, one could hold allegiance to only one sovereign…one Nation…one country.  If one is a United States citizen, that one country is supposed to be the United States of America.  Native-born citizens get away easy, they take no legally binding oaths.  Naturalized US citizens, however, take that oath.


What does all this mean?  Does voting in another country’s election establish allegiance and fidelity to that country?  Again, from the US perspective, voting in a US national election is demonstrative of a citizen’s allegiance to his/her country and in fact is considered a civic duty.  Should the US Government consider voting in a foreign national election, particularly the Iraqi election where it is we trying to establish that democracy, anything less?


So if voting in the Iraqi national election is considered a demonstration of allegiance and fidelity to Iraq, how can a naturalized US citizen so voting not be violating, or at least reneging on, their oath of US citizenship?  The same would appear to apply to any naturalized US citizen voting in any foreign national election.  Of course, until the Iraqi elections, which the US is responsible for, the matter has always been very low-key, with the US Government preferring to ignore the matter or view it with no more than a “wink and a nod.”  As a former INS Supervisory Special Agent, I once discussed with Federal prosecutors the theoretical possibility of pursuing such cases; the only response I got was a laugh.   


Perhaps, of course, Mr. Boucher is correct, since it is likely the US Government will take no action to even review this issue from any law enforcement perspective.  Even if it did, and determined there may be violations of law, defense attorneys would play Mr. Boucher’s MSNBC interview prominently to show that the US Government clearly provided immunity to Iraqi-descent naturalized citizens from any liabilities in this regard.


The issue is worthy of further review and perhaps Congressional inquiry.  The issue would appear to diminish the meaning and value of US citizenship.  When a foreign national voluntarily becomes a naturalized US citizen, they may well retain certain customs and cultural aspects of their homeland, but they renounce political allegiance to that homeland and take full and sole allegiance to America.  At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Bill West is a retired INS/ICE Supervisory Special Agent who ran organized crime and national security investigations. He is now a counter-terrorism consultant and freelance writer.

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