- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 12, 2005

Amidst dual citizenships, multiple allegiances, and other attenuations of American identity, lies a little-used, but potentially powerful antidote: Section 340 of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. 1451].

Properly advanced, it could provide the Supreme Court with a dignified line of retreat from its calamitous and falsely argued 5-4 decision in Afroyim v. Rusk. In that decision, the court found U.S. citizenship, whether acquired by birth or naturalization, could only be lost if voluntarily renounced.

Section 340 authorizes the Justice Department to sue to revoke naturalizations where they have been “procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation.”

The place where persons seeking to naturalize are most likely to conceal “material fact(s)” is the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. Applicants might, for example, lie about one-time membership in a “terrorist organization” or check “no” to avoid revealing a conviction for smuggling drugs.

But once naturalized, few ever have their citizenship questioned, let alone revoked. Naturalizers associated with Nazi death camps, however, are an exception. The director of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) reports his unit has “won cases against 95 Nazi persecutors, stripping them of U.S. citizenship and/or removing them from the country.”

Since September 11, 2001, Section 340 has also been used against suspected Muslim terrorists: the Justice Department seeks to denaturalize and deport Rasmi Khader Almallah.

Mr. Almallah, it’s charged, had a long association with the now-defunct terrorist-connected Holy Land Foundation. In 1981, he obtained his green card by a fake marriage. Thus, says Justice’s lawsuit, “defendant procured his permanent residence [and, by extension, his citizenship] by fraud or by willful misrepresentation and concealment of a material fact.”

One might reasonably ask why Justice didn’t do something in 1981 when Mr. Almallah jumped the turnstile and long before he became a citizen, a father of seven children and owner of a large chain of carpet stores. But that Mr. Almallah could now be deported illustrates the continued viability of Section 340.

Prior to Afroyim, Congress believed it had a right to strip native or naturalized Americans of citizenship, reject dual citizenship, promote loyalty and thereby defend U.S. sovereignty.

Since Afroyim, dual citizenship has flourished. Recognizing citizenship is power, source countries now promote dual citizenship for their emigrants (and even the emigrants’ children) in an effort to get more of them to become American citizens and then marshal their political energies for the interests of the country of origin. Dual citizenship means immigrants get the advantages Americans are born with and retain the advantages of citizenship in their home country.

Numbers prove we’re heading in a new direction. In the period 1921-80, there were an average of 151,000 naturalizations per year. In the decade 1991-2000, however, the annual average more than tripled to 516,000.

Section 340 points to a partial solution. Every person who becomes a U.S. citizen must take our standard oath of allegiance. This requirement is ancient, going back to the very beginnings of our country. Its antique language is redolent of old verities. It is intended to be a solemn act, a rebirth as awesome as childbirth.

The oath begins: “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;” and ends: “I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Is the oath just a joke? — a collection of empty words? Or is it a serious undertaking backed up by Section 340?

Candidates for citizenship should be:

• Required to turn over their old passports before taking the oath.

• Informed that, once they have taken the oath, they may not obtain passports or special privileges in their previous homeland so long as they continue to be American citizens.

• Informed we will report to their former country they are U.S. citizens and have renounced their former loyalty and rights.

Warned that if they obtain passports from, or take an oath of allegiance to, their former homeland, they risk losing their U.S. citizenship as they would be guilty of a “willful misrepresentation.”

I welcome these new citizens. But even if American citizenship were worth nothing, it would still be a privilege granted to newcomers by the citizens of America.

Of course, we know U.S. citizenship is of inestimable worth. It is appropriate therefore to demand that those we honor in this way forgo their allegiances to, and advantages they had, in their countries of origin.

William Buchanan writes on immigration topics.

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