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The question of dual citizenship is troubling many countries. Germany and Italy still follow jus sanguinis, "the law of blood," which means that descendents of people who emigrated even centuries ago retain their citizenship. Russians of German heritage who speak no German have used this as a pretext to migrate to Germany, where they have worn out their welcome. Germans are tired of Kurds and Turks; the recent defeat of the SPD in the Hesse elections was in part a protest against the proposal to establish dual ditizenship. In the past descendents of Italians who emigrated were actually drafted when they visited Italy if they were of draft age.

On becoming American citizens, immigrants declare that they foreswear any previous allegiance. That should settle it, but it doesn't. Lawyers say the 1996 Immigration and Naturalization is very unclear. Foreign governments continue to issue passports to emigrants, who thus may conveniently have two. Among the advantages of having two passports is that the second may be used in countries where being an American could make one a target for assassination.

Our biggest problem is that of Mexican Americans. In areas where they may become the most numerous group, the closest parallel will be with the Albanians of Kosovo. Until recently, observers did not realize that Kosovo was a time-bomb, just as few Americans are aware of the potential problem presented by Mexican Americans. To say this is no criticism of Kosovo or of Mexican Americans.

The Mexican side of the story is very confusing, and any clarification would be appreciated. The Mexican Congress passed a law allowing them to have dual citizenship, but then a reaction set in. At the beginning of his presidential campaign, Manuel Bartlett said he would not seek the Mexican-American vote, and other candidates followed suit. Then the Mexican Senate passed a law saying they could not vote in the presidential elections of the year 2000. I have not seen a breakdown of the vote by party.

Meanwhile in the United States there was turmoil because of a legal decision apparently overturning the Reagan administration's ruling granting amnesty to Mexicans who came to this country before 1981. While Washington was paralyzed by a snow storm, many hundreds went there to protest. The whole situation is bewilderingly complex.

Ronald Hilton - 03/11/99


From Mexico, David Crow writes:

"In 1997, the Mexican Congress did indeed allow Mexican-born citizens of other countries to re-apply for Mexican citizenship without relinquishing their naturalization. The biggest debate in Mexico has been over legislating the right to vote for Mexicans residing in other countries. At present there are no mechanisms for Mexicans abroad to vote in presidential or state elections. The Senate passed a law denying Mexicans abroad the right to vote, but failure to legislate would have achieved the same effect. In any event, the newly (re) Mexicanized citizens will not be able to participate in the 2000 elections.

The issue is explosive here because Mexicans residing abroad and those eligible for dual citizenship (the overwhelmingly majority of whom live in the U.S.) represent 14% of the electorate. In a tight presidential race, as 2000 will surely be, their vote would be decisive. The ruling PRI is strongly opposed to giving the vote to Mexican residents of foreign countries, alleging technical and logistical difficulties. For example, how could campaign financing and media equity laws be enforced in other countries? Many suspect, however, that the real reason is that the Mexican vote abroad would overwhelmingly favor opposition parties, mostly the PRD.

There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence that favors this assertion. On the same day that elections were held in the state of Guerrero (one of the states which most exports labor to the U.S.), a shadow election was held in Chicago in which about 150 Guerrero natives living there participated. The vote overwhelmingly favored the PRD, while the PRI got a mere two votes. While hardly a scientific sampling, the cumulative evidence (including Cuauhtemoc Cardenas tours of California universities, where he was given repeated ovations) indicates heavy support for the opposition. "

My comment: After the Guerrero elections for governor, which the PRI won, there was a mass march by supporters of the left-wing PRD all the way to Mexico City to protest the alleged rigging of results.

I strongly disagree with what seems to be David's conclusion, namely that the United States should permit the free immigration of Mexicans. That is undoutbtedly what Mexico would like, but it could result in a Kosovo writ large.

Here is the opinion of Joihn Wonder:

"I regard the problem as very serious. I was born into an Anglosaxon culture, and I wish it to remain as such. Why should people who crowd in, often illegally, be allowed to change it? I guess few people care. What I would really like to know is why is multiculturalism and ethnic diversity (by which they apparently mean foreign bodies) some kind of good in itself? I see no particular virtue in it."

Not unexpectedly, Bruno Lopez, who is Univision's Mexico City correspondent and is at Stanford this year as a Knight and Reuters Fellow, expresses the Mexican viewpoint. He says:

"I read John Wonder's opinion on immigration. I can see his view as one that could easily be acquired depending on where you live or grow up, one in which you forget who were the original people who colonized this lands. But it is better to leave those facts behind (like the one for example that Mexicans were in this region before the Anglo-Saxons), and concentrate on realities: Even if one dislikes ethnic diversity (which has present since the start of this country) it is here to stay. You could eliminate completely any additional immigration, and that would not keep Hispanics from becoming the largest minority group in the U.S by the year 2007 - I don't have the exact figure - but I believe we might be talking of somewhere close to 7 percent of the total population. What can you do about this? You cannot start deporting people who were born here (although it happened in the 20s; thousands of Mexican Americans in California were "sent back to Mexico" where they had never been). I want to tell Mr. Wonder something that will probably make him happy, the fact that he won't have to worry about me, I hope to be back in Mexico when my fellowship at Stanford comes to an end."

My comment: Africans in France and Turks and Kurds in Germany could make the same argument, but that does not solve the problem. The question is: how fast can a minority be assimilated into a nation's political culture? The Irish and the Italians have achieved that in the United States, but the case of Mexico is different. It is next door, and the population pressure shows no sign of diminishing. On the other hand, the Mexicans are much closer to the American culture than the Africans, Turks and Kurds are to the European culture. What happens if there is a political upheaval in Mexico?

Ronald Hilton - 03/14/99