Present-day Americans feel secure in their citizenship: they are free to speak up for any cause, oppose their government, marry a person of any background, and live where they choose-at home or abroad. Denaturalization and denationalization are more often associated with twentieth-century authoritarian regimes. But there was a time when American-born and naturalized foreign-born individuals in the United States could be deprived of their citizenship and its associated rights. Patrick Weil examines the twentieth-century legal procedures, causes, and enforcement of denaturalization to illuminate an important but neglected dimension of Americans’ understanding of sovereignty and federal authority: a citizen is defined, in part, by the parameters that could be used to revoke that same citizenship. The Sovereign Citizen begins with the Naturalization Act of 1906, which was intended to prevent realization of citizenship through fraudulent or illegal means. Denaturalization-a process provided for by one clause of the act-became the main instrument for the transfer of naturalization authority from states and local courts to the federal government. Alongside the federalization of naturalization, a conditionality of citizenship emerged: for the first half of the twentieth century, naturalized individuals could be stripped of their citizenship not only for fraud but also for affiliations with activities or organizations that were perceived as un-American. (Emma Goldman’s case was the first and perhaps best-known denaturalization on political grounds, in 1909.) By midcentury the Supreme Court was fiercely debating cases and challenged the constitutionality of denaturalization and denationalization. This internal battle lasted almost thirty years. The Warren Court’s eventual decision to uphold the sovereignty of the citizen-not the state-secures our national order to this day. Weil’s account of this transformation, and the political battles fought by its advocates and critics, reshapes our understanding of American citizenship.
Based on the interviews below, it is clear that this is an interesting, well-researched and valuable contribution to the discussion of the relationship between the citizen and the state. I’m sold and will purchase the book.
Of interest to Americans abroad is Chapter 6 which is titled:
Chapter 6: In the Largest Numbers: The Penalty of Living Abroad
Once upon a time, so very long ago, in a not so far off land, I was beginning my first year of University. During the “orientation week” I listened to a “Welcoming speech” from the President of this particular institution. The man was a “living legend”. But, what I remember was the manner in which he was proudly introduced to the freshman class. His introduction included the following description:
“I would like to introduce to you _________________
A man who was an American by birth and a Canadian by choice” Continue reading →
The above tweet references an interesting article about the relationship between the oath of allegiance to the Queen and Canadian citizenship. It raises the questions of:
1. Does an oath of allegiance matter at all?
2. If so, to whom or what should the oath of allegiance be?
Interestingly, under S. 349 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, an Oath of Allegiance to a non-U.S. sovereign is an expatriating act. The article includes: Continue reading →
The proposed changes come along with higher maximum fines and jail terms for citizenship fraud, as well as new options to – through the courts – strip citizenship from dual citizens convicted of certain serious crimes, such as terrorism. Many of the provisions are retroactive, leaving lawyers to wonder whether they’ll affect past high-profile cases, such as those in the “Toronto 18” terrorist plot.
But “several aspects” of the citizenship-stripping provisions wouldn’t likely survive a constitutional challenge, said Audrey Macklin, chair of Human Rights Law at the University of Toronto, who once served on the Immigration and Refugee Board. Other lawyers agreed.
Brad Westerfield, a tax lawyer at Butler Snow, said that renunciations have increased following the implementation of a new disclosure law — the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act — that targets overseas tax evasion.
The measure, approved by Congress in 2010, is aimed at recouping some of the hundreds of billions the government says it loses each year in unpaid taxes.
“They’ve become so complicated — the increased filing obligations over the years,” Westerfield said. “You see more people giving up their citizenship or relinquishing their green cards … Individuals [are] wanting to simplify their financial affairs, and just pay tax and report to one jurisdiction.”
The comments are amazing. Great window into what America thinks of its expats. Would you want to remain a citizen of a country that regards you with so much contempt?