Wrap-Up Post: W(h)ither America?

by Peter Spiro

Chimene detects some nostalgia in Beyond Citizenship‘s suggestion that America may be unsustainable in the long run. But how could I not be nostalgic? I’m an American, and America has had a pretty good run of it.

At least I recognize the nostalgia. One thing that is both fascinating and frustrating about engaging on citizenship issues is the difficulty in keeping some perspective on the conversation. Most of the scholars addressing American citizenship theory are themselves Americans, and proud ones at that, the progressives as much as the conservatives. I think that sometimes adds an ingredient of wishful thinking to the mix. Americans certainly don’t want to hear about the end of America (unless of course there’s something they can do about it), academics no more than anyone else. There’s something, well, slightly unpatriotic about it.

In fact constitutional law scholars may be more sensitive than others to the nation’s possible dissipation. As John points out, constitutional governance as we know it is ultimately what’s at stake here. Although progressive scholars aren’t openly opposed to supra- and transnational forms of governance, it tends to make them fidget for the same reasons. The shift puts everything up for grabs in a slightly scary way. It’s not just that power might shift away from America to other states, as the latest bestseller argues, it’s that power may shift beyond the state, to zones in which all our received wisdom may just not apply. The United States will be around as a weighty, historic association of individuals, of citizens, into the distant future, but for many it will be a less important component of their identity going forward. America is not for all time. Academics are positioned to be thinking through alternate locations of governance.

Many, many thanks to Alex, Chimene, Cristina, John, Jon, and Ken for participating with their thoughtful and challenging posts in this book roundtable. I think this has been an edifying discussion, or at least I know that I’ve learned a lot in the process. I hope some readers have also found it to be of interest, though I’m sure others will be relieved that we now return to our regular programming!

Who Needs Citizenship?

by Peter Spiro

Thanks to Ken for injecting the Ignatieff observation, with which I emphatically disagree! Nation-states are useful handmaidens to the superclass, but the real elites could do just fine without them, thank you very much. It’s nice to have safe streets in places New York and London, but that’s the business of local governments, not national ones. In locales where things are dicier, there’s always private security. As for the other forms of order that elites depend on, like financial order, again states are useful, but an increasing number of transnational institutions are just fine running on their own non-governmental steam. In any case citizenship in a particular country isn’t an issue for elites: the SEC, for example, works for Singaporean, British and Mexican elites, too.

The tougher (and more typical) challenge is whether non-elites need citizenship. As Alex notes, “the transnational trends that Peter identifies may be working on behalf of but a small—and privileged—slice of humankind.” For her part Cristina asserts that “[e]veryone needs a citizenship, whether because citizenship is, in Arendt’s formulation, the ‘right to have rights,’ or the primary security we have that we cannot be banished from at least one place on earth, or the mechanism for ensuring that everyone belongs somewhere such that every person is the ultimate responsibility of some government.”

At some level that is obviously still true. If you’re not a transnational elite, citizenship is a very nice thing to have, and it’s nicer to have US citizenship than, say, Mexican citizenship. But it’s not what it used to be. We’ve left behind the Arendtian world in which the lack of citizenship left you completely exposed to the sovereign elements. That’s what the human rights revolution is all about.

As for US citizenship, it gets you absolute locational security and the right to vote, and not much else. Wherever the overall naturalization rate is going, there are lots of permanent residents who don’t bother to naturalize, even after decades of territorial presence (more than 25% of those in the country for more than 20 years have yet to acquire citizenship). Why not? Must not be worth that much to them.

My last few words

by Jonathan Weinberg

Thanks again to Peter, without whose terrific book we couldn’t have done this, and who has responded challengingly and gracefully throughout this conversation. It’s been a lot of fun.

I want to reassure John that he really isn’t the only one here skeptical of global governance. Speaking for myself, I’m not such a fan either. Governance institutions tend to suffer from ever-increasing democracy deficits as they grow larger, and global institutions are the largest of all. In my other life, doing Internet and telecom law, the track record of global governance is pretty dispiriting.

It does seem to me, though, that we can believe in the nation-state — and believe that governance should take place on that level — without believing that the U.S. should impose arbitrary limitations on immigration-for-permanent-residence-and-ultimately-citizenship. That is, I believe that we can have a strong nation-state consistently with having borders that are much more open than this country’s are today. This relates to a key theme of Peter’s book that we didn’t really get to in this discussion: Can we have a strong conception of citizenship but only weak limits on entry into citizenship? I think we can (or at least we can have a strong enough conception of citizenship), and Cristina has articulated some of the reasons why. But the rest of that discussion will have to wait for another day.

Patriotic Assimilation

by John Fonte

We have talked a little bit about assimilation. What I believe is important for strengthening our democracy is what I call “patriotic assimilation. I’m going to sketch this out a little.

What is “patriotic assimilation”? First, it does not mean giving up all ethnic traditions, customs, cuisine, and birth languages. It has nothing to do with the food one eats, the religion one practices, the affection that one feels for the land of one’s birth, and the second languages that one speaks. Multiethnicity and ethnic subcultures have always been part of our past.

Patriotic assimilation occurs when a newcomer essentially adopts American civic values and the American heritage as his or her own. It occurs, for example, when newcomers and their children begin to think of American history as “our” history not “their” history. To give a hypothetical example, imagine an eight-grade Korean-American female student studying the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Does she think of those events in terms of “they” or “we”? Does she envision the creation of the Constitution in Philadelphia as something that “they” (white males of European descent) were involved in 200 years before her ancestors came to America, or does she imagine the Constitutional Convention as something that “we” Americans did as part of “our” history? Does she think in terms of “we” or “they”? “We” implies patriotic assimilation. If she thinks in terms of “we” she has done what millions of immigrants and immigrant children have done in the past. She has adopted America’s story as her story, and she has adopted America’s Founders—Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Washington—as her ancestors. (This does not mean that she, like other Americans, will not continue to argue about our history and our heritage, nor ignore the times that America has acted ignobly).

Patriotic assimilation does, however, mean exclusive citizenship. One nation’s interests (and values) are the same as another’s. This is true even among democratic nation-states that are very close such as the US and Canada (the World Values Survey shows differences). So, yes, dual allegiance does constitute a major problem for the strength of American democracy. Interestingly I have seen survey data by a major polling company (it will be released in June, I will send it to Peter then) that reveals that 75% of all registered voters believe that newly naturalized American citizens should be required to “give up all allegiance” to their previous nation.

Tightening the Citizenship Circle, Legally: Not Going to Happen

by Peter Spiro

John wonders if I’m being too deterministic in my analysis, and Cristina also clearly sees some possibilities in citizenship policymaking. I agree that there are some important policy choices on the table, such as the ones Cristina discusses in the context of circular migration. But at the core I think there is zero chance of moving citizenship practice in a direction that would reverse its increasingly overinclusive tendencies.

Scaling back birthright citizenship: Not going to happen. This has been on the table since the mid-1990s, with various proposals to limit jus soli citizenship by either constitutional amendment or statute. That was no surprise, in the face of intense anti-immigrant sentiment from some quarters. What is suprising is how little traction these proposals have had. As far as I know, none has so much as been voted out of committee. This experience proves how deeply entrenched birthright citizenship is as a constitutional norm.

Policing dual citizenship: Not going to happen. My lightbulb moment on this, which I describe in the book (p. 73), was a conversation I had at a conference dinner with a House immigration subcommittee staffer, a Republican, around the time that Mexico changed its law on dual citizenship in 1998. If there were going to be a time to attack dual citizenship, that would have been it. I asked whether there were any legislative moves in the works. He said no, there weren’t, letting drop that he had nieces and nephews who were Irish and American and that “they’re good people, too.”

The only legislative proposal I’m aware of on dual citizenship was a bill introduced in 2005 which would have criminalized certain acts associated with dual citizenship, like serving in a foreign army or voting in foreign elections (on the part of naturalized citizens only). That went nowhere. With powerful constituencies in play here beyond the usual immigration sending states (think Ireland, Italy, and Israel) this kind of action is a complete nonstarter.

Raising the bar to naturalization: Not going to happen. This is slightly more plausible, that naturalization requirements could be stiffened. But the clear trend is towards relaxing them, the calls of conservative nationalists notwithstanding (for book length treatments, see here, here, and here, all either out of print or remaindered). There was a possibility in the drawn out effort to revise the test, but the result was minor tinkering. It’s still like the test to get learner’s permit. The only barrier that’s been raised is the application fee, a nontrivial threshhold but obviously one that doesn’t measure membership in the national community.

The fact that citizenship policy has not become a battleground for the immigration wars shows the resilience of inclusiveness. But that inclusiveness, as we have been discussing, may come at a cost.

Final thoughts on cosmopolitanism

by Cristina Rodriguez

I want to wrap up my participation in this on-line symposium by thanking Peter again for his great contribution, and the occasion for what has been for me an engrossing discussion. I also want to chime in on two of the issues raised yesterday.

1. Peter, I think that many, if not most, Americans have come to value their citizenship precisely because of its inclusiveness. The fact that it has become relatively easy to obtain and that we have eliminated all racial barriers to its acquisition is a reason to celebrate it, and to be proud of it. Sure, for some people extending its full scope to groups such as women and blacks may have diminished its value in the short-term, and the possibility of a Latino plurality in the U.S. as the result of contemporary migration may raise anxiety in some quarters. But, over time, people accept these reformulations of the institution, which make it stronger; exclusion becomes a drag on its value. And yes, as Robert Putnam has shown in his work, diversity can breed distrust. But adaptable institutions, such as our citizenship regime, are the keys to knitting diverse people together. Both our jus soli rule and the relatively open path to naturalization likely have been crucial to the United States’ ability (superior to many of our counterparts’ in Europe and elsewhere) to absorb large immigrant populations. I think I share much of Jonathan’s optimism about what he calls the American creed, which may be under pressure by today’s version of globalization, but whose institutional expressions, such as our citizenship regime as it exists today, are universalist in their orientation and therefore likely to survive the explosion of loyalties.

2. Ken, your citation to Michael Ignatieff’s skepticism regarding cosmopolitanism raises an important issue that we have not really discussed—citizenship as legal status. Everyone needs a citizenship, whether because citizenship is, in Arendt’s formulation, the “right to have rights,” or the primary security we have that we cannot be banished from at least one place on earth, or the mechanism for ensuring that everyone belongs somewhere such that every person is the ultimate responsibility of some government. I don’t understand Peter to be dismissing the importance of citizenship as legal status, but (correct me if I’m wrong Peter) he is cosmopolitan in the sense of seeing the need for forms of membership, including with legal significance, that extend beyond the traditional model of one person, one state. I share the skepticism of the sort of cosmopolitanism that believes that people’s attachments to their national contexts are on the wane, and that a more transcendent form of political and cultural identity is preferable—some of which may be animating Peter’s work. But even as I agree that people remain deeply rooted in the societies or cultures in which they were born or raised, it’s hard to deny Peter’s point that we are all more plural than ever before in our interests and affiliations, if only because of the mass diffusion of a heavily American-inflected popular culture across the globe. And mass global migration, which is hardly just a phenomenon of elites, is contributing to the cosmopolitan dynamic. Whether the condition of cultural pluralism in which we live has been or ought to be accompanied by diminished regard for national citizenship is the question. I think Peter would say “yes” to the “has been” part of that formulation, and your military officers would say “no way” to the “ought.” Whether and how we try to bridge that gap is the hard part.

Channeling Circular Migration

by Cristina Rodriguez

I would like to return to the theme of how we should approach the dynamics of erosion Peter has identified and to reiterate that I think we should be asking not whether these forces are inevitable, but rather: what are their real costs, and what might be the costs of trying to reverse them? First, even if the overinclusiveness of our constitutional jus soli rule and statutory jus sanguinus provisions, and our increased acceptance of dual nationality, weaken the institution of U.S. citizenship, these are developments we must maintain. Second, though illegal immigration may have its benefits—it arguably is economically efficient, imposes fewer fiscal costs that legal immigration, and screens for the immigrants with the greatest fortitude—it is a form of “membership” that we should strive to reduce. The question on that score is whether we can accomplish the reduction by asserting a sovereign interest in border enforcement, or whether we must expand opportunities and forms of legally sanctioned membership beyond what today’s system allows.

Finally, to me, the most difficult question is posed by circular migration. Whether or not it is occurring with the same frequency as in previous eras and whether or not it is inevitable—something others have been debating—we still need to think, as a matter of policy, about how best to channel it. With respect to semi- and unskilled workers, our current strategy of responding to illegal immigration through strict border enforcement, which Doug Massey has shown is turning what would otherwise be cyclical migration into the semi-permanent settlement of illegal immigrants, seems untenable.

But the question is whether we should permit migrants to cycle in and out of the United States pursuant to some kind of labor migration agreement with Mexico (or other states) as frequently as makes economic sense for Mexico, the U.S., or immigrants themselves. Or, at some point should we expect migrants to make a permanent commitment to the United States or return to their countries of citizenship? I worry about the civil society implications of migrants using the United States as a kind of economic way station, particularly for prolonged periods of time. Circularity reduces incentives for integration (migrants without long-term time horizons in the United States are less likely to invest in acquiring the social capital necessary to be full members), which in turn reduces the willingness of Americans to support immigration more generally and threatens to give rise to sizable cohorts of quasi-members of secondary status.

Some circularity, even in a context where immigrants have become U.S. citizens (or are born with two citizenships), is likely inevitable, and it would be unduly coercive to prevent it. This is not an argument for forcing everyone who steps foot in the United States to stay forever. But actively embracing circularity as immigration policy could institutionalize a practice on a large scale that is inconsistent with what should remain our goal: turning immigrants into citizens to ensure the perpetuation of the American project as a society whose members are all equal participants.

Obviously an important component of making this work is not just willingness on the part of immigrants to make long-term commitments to the United States, but also making the road to citizenship a possibility for those who cross our borders. Peter has already talked about the importance of reducing barriers to naturalization, but I also want to underscore the importance of opening up the road to naturalization to the migrants we are increasingly admitting on a temporary basis (whether by tolerating illegal immigration or authorizing small or large-scale temporary work visas across the labor market spectrum). Expanding the availability of citizenship may contribute to the lessening of its value. But, consistent with my first post on thinness itself having value, my strong intuition is that making citizenship available creates incentives for immigrants to affiliate with and integrate into the United States. Though it could turn out to be empirically false, my strong hunch is that the possibility of permanent security and membership itself gives reasons for immigrants to invest long-term in the communities around them, instead of keeping their sites focused exclusively elsewhere, even if citizenship doesn’t cost them that much. Indeed, the possibility of dual citizenship, which Mexico now allows, may reduce the incentive to invest somewhat; cf. the difficulty I acknowledged previously of participating equally in two different societies. But if we are worried about circular migration reducing attachment to the United States, which Peter might or might not be depending on how ready to accept the inevitable he is, then we should think about how to structure the parameters of circular migration to offset some of its downsides.

Immigrants and Assimilation

by Peter Spiro

I’m not going directly to take on Jon’s latest post on naturalization rates. It’s quite complicated, and Jon’s correct that it has to take into account flows and stock. It’s clear that the rate has been rising. For those interested in a detailed analysis, check out this report by Jeffrey Passel from the Pew Hispanic Center.

That doesn’t answer the question of why immigrants are naturalizing in higher numbers. I agree with Jon that some immigrants in the past have no doubt naturalized for instrumental reasons. I suspect there are more who are doing so today. Dual citizenship again is a crucial factor. In the past, you had to choose. Should I forfeit my original citizenship, something on the order (in Peter Schuck’s formulation) of abandoning your first love? That probably made more likely the convergence of affective and instrumental motivations in the naturalization decision. Today, you can add a citizenship for instrumental reasons (even trivial ones, like getting the better treatment at the airport) without being forced to factor in sentimental factors (and “loyalty”, whatever that means today). (I have some quibbles with Jon’s characterization of practices relating to dual citizenship in the 19th and early 20th century which I’ll hope to point out in a comment to his post.)

The ultimate question here might be whether immigrants are assimilating. (There’s a report out just yesterday from the Manhattan Institute which offers up some conflicting evidence. On the one hand, the study shows some uptick in assimilation among recent arrivals. On the other, it concludes that assimilation is lower today than among immigrants of a century ago. A perfect case of dueling headlines: compare this with this!)

I think the answer is probably yes and no, and I’m not sure it makes a difference. Yes in the sense that most immigrants know the basics of constitutional democracy and American popular culture. No, however, to the extent that they may not be connecting in a way that’s any different from the way that the rest of the world is connecting to the United States. In other words, the immigrant from Manila or Santo Domingo or Seoul or Zacatecas may be assimilated, but not much more assimilated than the family members she left behind.

There may be a partial answer in here to Jon’s most recent post on diasporic communities. It also works with what I call happenstance Americans. Born in the US, citizenship for life, leaves at age 2: that person wil probably end up knowing a fair amount about the United States and be connected to it in various ways, but not necessarily much more than her non-US citizen neighbor in the foreign country in which she now lives. If everyone’s an American, citizenship becomes an arbitrary binary, dividing haves and have-nots in a way that doesn’t reflect social realities on the ground, and it becomes unable to do the sort of work it has in the past.

Nation-States and Cosmopolitans … an Ellipsis from Ignatieff

by Kenneth Anderson

Greetings, everyone – Ken Anderson here. My thanks to Peter and all my friends at Opinio Juris for inviting me as a guest. I am actually guest-blogging next week on Opinio Juris, and am quite fascinated with this book discussion. Peter kindly invited me to join in, but I have been lobbying an editor to let me review Peter’s splendid book, and I think I might damage chances if I say anything substantive here … on a blog (!!)

But the one thing I will add to this conversation is a quote from Michael Ignatieff, his 1990s book, Blood and Belonging. I would be curious as to how, or whether, Peter or others thinks it fits within the discussion of citizenship:

“It is only too apparent that cosmopolitanism is the privilege of those who can take a secure nation-state for granted … The cosmopolitan order of the great cities – London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris – depends critically on the rule-enforcing capacities of the nation-state … In this sense, therefore, cosmopolitans like myself are not beyond the nation; and a cosmopolitan, post-nationalist spirit will always depend, in the end, on the capacity of nation-states to provide security and civility for their citizens. In that sense alone, I am a civic nationalist, someone who believes in the necessity of nations and in the duty of citizens to defend the capacity of nations to provide the security and the rights we all need in order to live cosmopolitan lives.”

I should add that I once quoted this to a class on just war theory and the laws of war, a class at Harvard in the mid-1990s with a large number of US military officers doing a year at the Kennedy School. One of them raised his hand and said, “Well, the cosmopolitan types always expect the citizen types to sacrifice and die for them – and not being very smart, we do.”

The Thinness of American Citizenship: Or, What’s Wrong with Happenstance Americans and Diasporic Communities?

by Jonathan Weinberg

Peter, you argue that there is no core of American identity beyond the popular and political culture (Snoop Dogg, anyone?) that we share with the world. The culture of New York, in other words, is not meaningfully different than that of New Delhi; or in any event, it’s no more distinctively and meaningfully American. I’m wondering, though: if that’s the case, why, exactly, do you think there’s a challenge to citizenship posed by the “happenstance American” born in the U.S. but who spends much of her life outside it? Or by the child growing up in a “diasporic community” said to be socially and culturally disconnected from the larger nation? It seems to me that the reason you think these folks pose a challenge to citizenship is because you do believe that a sufficient period of acculturation and residence, meaningfully situated within the American community, does convey something — knowledge, values, more — that makes you American. The asserted problem with happenstance Americans and folks in disaporic communities is that they don’t absorb that something. But whatever that something is, it looks like American identity.

(Alternatively, I suppose, the problem could be disconnected from knowledge and values; it could be just that those folks may not have sufficient attachment to American community. That concern, I think, would situate you somewhere within the liberal nationalist paradigm you critique in the book. But that’s a topic for another post, if we get to it.)

I suppose I think that there is still an American creed, and that its elements include, among other stuff, a commitment to immigration and to the American experiment — an enterprise of perpetually rebuilding and reconstructing our City upon a Hill, a city that we collectively built, rather than merely inheriting, and that therefore we can rebuild — that we in the U.S. still see as distinctively American. Then again, I may be projecting my own liberal values onto the nation: after all, a lot of the American public are less committed to immigration than I am. I expect there are some members of the public whose version of American identity is premised on closed borders. It may be that what unites us in the U.S. is narcissism. We all tend to see the American experiment as, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “the last best hope of earth”; we just can’t agree on why.

Why go beyond the Constitution?

by John Fonte

One very quick point on Alex’s argument (discussed by Peter in the post,”Translating citizenship outside the State”) that, in effect, “citizenship will move up the territorial chain.” I agree with Alex descriptively that new kinds of post-national citizenship would be established with new political entities, norms, coercive authority and the like. My problem is normative. It has not been explained how these new institutions can be democratic. Why would we want to go beyond the US Constitution for a new system of post-national governance that can not even be fully articulated?

European Union is post-democratic

by John Fonte

A quick point to Cristina. Even strong supporters of the European Union recognize that the institution has a “democracy deficit.” For decades most of the power and authority of the EU has been exercised within the European Commission (EC), the bureaucracy in Brussels. Legislation is initiated by the EC, not the Parliament or the Council of Ministers which can only refuse to accept legislation already developed by the EC (which they almost never do) or amend the legislation through a complicated process.One of Europe’s most prominent sociologists, Ralf Dahrendorf (former commissioner of the EC, current member of the House of Lords) stated that: “It is not just a joke to say that if the EU itself applied for accession to the EU, it could not be admitted because it is insufficiently democratic.” The nation-states of Europe are democratic, but the institution of the EU is, what I would call “post-democratic.” Hence, I don’t believe we have an example of a democracy beyond the nation-state, possibly we have those below the nation (city-states), but not above.

Cristina is right about federalism, many nation-states have federal systems and this is not a problem for liberal democracy, but the supra-national EU is a problem. Christina is also right to suggest that decision-making on illegal immigration is often de-centralized and contradictory. That does not mean, however, that the vast majority of the American people are not right in favoring border and interior (business) enforcement of our immigration laws.

One point on dual citizenship. The empirical work of Jeffrey Staton, Robert Jackson, and Damarys Canache has found that Latinos who are dual nationals or dual citizens are less likely to have “political-connnectedness” (self-identification as Americans, consideration of the US as real homeland, civic duty) and electoral participation than Latinos who are not dual nationals. This appears to me to strengthen Peter’s general point.