Immigration Reform Meets Dual Citizenship

Article excerpt


When President Bush discusses immigration policy with Mexican President Vicente Fox in Texas tomorrow, he should challenge the purpose and legitimacy of Mexico's promotion of dual citizenship. To understand the significance of this issue, let us examine the case of Manual de la Cruz.

Mr. de la Cruz emigrated from Mexico in the early 1970s. Eventually, he became an American citizen and took the Oath of Allegiance in which he "absolutely and entirely renounced all allegiance and fidelity" to any "foreign state." Yet in 2004 Mr. de la Cruz was elected to the Zacatecas state legislature and declared loyalty to the Mexican Republic, violating the Oath of Allegiance that he took to the United States. The point is not to pick on Mr. de la Cruz, who seems to be a very gifted individual, but to examine the relationship between dual citizenship and American democracy.

Unlike many other nations, American citizenship is not based on racial, religious or ethnic identity. It is based, instead, on political loyalty to American constitutional democracy. People from anywhere in the world can become Americans. But if our great historical success in assimilating millions of immigrants is going to continue, ultimately newcomers must be loyal to the U.S. Constitution and not to any other constitution.

Mexican legislative bodies have reserved seats for deputies representing Mexicans living in the United States. The general idea makes sense, but the problem is the Mexican government has designated as "Mexicans" naturalized American citizens and even their children born in the United States. Several years ago, Fox Cabinet member Juan Hernandez declared "we are betting" Mexican-Americans will "think Mexico first" to the "seventh generation." Thus, Mexican government policies directly challenge American national interests in patriotically assimilating these newcomers.

Clearly, people of Mexican ancestry who are citizens of the United States are Americans, not "Mexicans living abroad," anymore than American citizens of Italian ancestry are "Italians living abroad." If the United States accepts the principle that it is legitimate for foreign-born citizens (or, worse, for their American-born children) to maintain political allegiance to the foreign state from which they emigrated, we have accepted a racial-ethnic definition of citizenship that makes a mockery of our 200-year old immigration ideal.

In effect, Americans would have accepted the old Germanic concept of das Volk (or Latinized, its Spanish equivalent of La Raza) in which the "race" trumps citizenship. …