Michele Bachmann is Now Swiss, Too (Dual Citizenship is Here to Stay)

by Peter Spiro

That’s right, Michele Bachmann has acquired Swiss citizenship and is now a dual national. The news reports say she did it for her kids. (It doesn’t appear that her naturalization was necessary for her children’s, since her husband was already a Swiss citizen. For those interested in the finer points of Swiss nationality law, here is a primer. Note that although Bachmann could sign up through the marital tie notwithstanding the lack of any other substantial ties to Switzerland, many long-term Swiss residents are subjected to tough, even humiliating, hurdles to acquiring citizenship there.)

When an arch-conservative like Bachmann becomes a dual citizen, it takes the steam out of any putative effort to police the status.  Dual citizenship is not like illegal immigration.  It’s not about different looking people streaming across the southern border.  It’s about US and Irish dual citizens, US and Italian dual citizens, US and Israeli dual citizens, and apparently a few US and Swiss dual citizens.  (Of course there are also a lot of US and Mexico dual citizens – among them, pretty much all Mexicans who have naturalized since 1998, but there’s no principled way to single them out.)  An effort to criminalize the status through federal legislation (see this 2005 House bill) was a complete non-starter.

In other words, dual citizenship cuts across the political spectrum.  Nor does it give rise to any concrete problems, not even if you serve in Congress (the other poster child in the Republican camp for this is former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is Austrian and American).  The number of people holding the status is exploding to the point where the status is commonplace among Americans.  It surely counts as among the most dramatic legal incidents of globalization.