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DE SILVA: Citizens, but not Americans

Dual citizenship encourages divided loyalties

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There is a common belief that if an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, then he has become an American. It is a naive belief.

The Boston Marathon bombing is the latest reminder of how guileless such a belief is. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Muslim brothers who purportedly planted the bombs and who is now in federal custody, is a naturalized citizen — i.e., an immigrant who was granted U.S. citizenship. To add insult to injury, he became naturalized in 2012 on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 Islamic terrorist attacks.

In fact, the Boston case exemplifies the sheer naivete of everything that liberals typically gush about immigrants — they're peace-loving people who become loyal citizens. It is abundantly clear that the Tsarnaev brothers were anything but peace-loving and loyal to America.

This is not the first time that the real proclivities of naturalized Muslim immigrants came to light. In 2010, another newly naturalized Muslim immigrant, Faisal Shahzad, tried unsuccessfully to set off a car bomb in New York City's Times Square. When a federal judge asked him why he planned such an attack despite having recently taken the oath of naturalization, he replied that the oath did not mean a thing to him.

The liberal shibboleth about the loyalty of immigrants is not only naive, but it also completely ignores a widespread practice among today's immigrants. This is the practice of dual citizenship, or dual nationality, in which naturalized immigrants keep their foreign citizenship as well as U.S. citizenship.

There are no official statistics on dual citizens. However, naturalization numbers are a good guide. On average, about 700,000 immigrants a year are given U.S. citizenship. For instance, since 2001, some 8 million immigrants have received U.S. citizenship — and most of them are either dual citizens or are eligible to hold dual citizenship. That is a lot of people with potentially conflicting loyalties.

Despite all the politically correct nonsense about immigrants, there is a simple question that goes to the heart of the matter: If someone is truly loyal to America, why would he keep another citizenship?

I speak on this issue from personal experience. As a naturalized American, I relinquished my native citizenship when I became an American by adhering strictly to the oath of naturalization. It is not your naturalization certificate that makes you an American — the certificate only makes you a U.S. citizen. Rather, what makes you an American is your unconditional belief this is your country.

However, for many immigrants today, U.S. citizenship is not a measure of patriotism, but rather a convenience that confers many benefits, such as a U.S. passport that enables them to come and go without worrying about immigration problems. They also know that U.S. citizenship means the ability to vote and eligibility for government benefits. Moreover, they can legally possess both a U.S. passport and one from their native country at the same time.

Many of these immigrants refuse to assimilate, instead following customs that are clearly incompatible with Western traditions. Though on paper they are U.S. citizens, in practice they are foreigners. In other words, they are U.S. citizens, but they are not Americans.

For terrorists and their sympathizers, U.S. citizenship is a powerful tool, since it makes them eligible to work in sensitive installations, such as nuclear plants and defense facilities. For them, obtaining U.S. citizenship is a clever subterfuge that wards off suspicion.

From the beginning, dual citizenship is a contradiction. The oath of naturalization requires you to swear, "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 ."

The language of the oath is clear. To allow people to retain their foreign citizenship is a gigantic mockery of the oath.

Yet, the State Department's website reads: "The U.S. government recognizes that dual nationality exists, but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause . However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country."

In other words, the naturalization oath doesn't mean a thing.

After all, we do not allow people to have two spouses at the same time, do we? There is no reason to think that maintaining a foreign citizenship somehow strengthens anyone's loyalty to the United States.

Immigration reform is under way in Congress. Congressional action will be an insult to the slain and the maimed in Boston unless it concentrates first on drastically tightening our legal immigration and naturalization laws. The debate over how to legalize millions of illegal immigrants should be a secondary issue. In fact, until our legal immigration system is made respectable again, no one will respect it, and illegal immigration will be an ongoing consequence.

As for reforming naturalization law, Congress can start by explicitly proscribing dual citizenship. The law should require complete renunciation of foreign citizenship before U.S. citizenship is granted. Any naturalized citizen carrying a foreign passport should lose his U.S. citizenship — no ifs, ands or buts.

However, do not expect such a common-sense policy from this Congress or this White House. Our government cares more about pandering to foreigners than about protecting Americans from barbarians who come here to kill us.

Ian de Silva is an engineer who has interests in politics and history.

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