Why Do Some Progressives Hate Dual Citizenship?

Why Do Some Progressives Hate Dual Citizenship?

NYT’s Room for Debate takes up the question of dual citizenship, with contributions from Ayelet Shachar, David Abraham, Mark Krikorian, Jose Itzigohn, and myself.  Krikorian is predictably and harshly disapproving, on the old “it’s like bigamy” model.  Ayelet, Jose, and myself are all more or less in favor.

In some ways, the most interesting contribution comes from David Abraham, a Marxist historian (I think self-identified as such) who teaches law at the University of Miami.  He points out that dual citizenship is all very nice for the globalized elites, but doesn’t do much good for the rest of the world.

It’s an equality argument that can’t be dismissed.  Someone with multiple passports (using them, as Abraham puts it, like credit cards) has an advantage over someone with just one, there’s no denying that.  I wonder, though, if dual citizenship isn’t getting distributed in a way that correlates less with class than territorial randomness.  The rich are obviously more likely to have the status, but there are a lot of non-elites from places like Mexico and the DR that have dual citizenship by accident of birthplace or parentage.

I’m less persuaded by Josh Marshall’s argument over at TPM, which plays off both the equality and (surprisingly) marriage riffs:

[A]t least at the level of principle, citizenship is unitary — you can’t be a citizen of two countries any more than you can be married to two people at the same time. Some people find this nationalistic or xenophobic. But it’s neither. To me it’s at the root of our equality as Americans. That’s why the Salvadoran immigrant to the woman whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower because they’ve both cast their lot as part of the same national community. If citizenship is purely transactional, the people who lack power are profoundly disadvantaged.

That romanticizes singular citizenship (really: singular US citizenship) in an almost weepy kind of way.  It ignores that forcing citizenship choices may compromise political rights and confine individual identities. It also suffers from a gaping middle: there’s a lot between conceiving of citizenship as marriage and conceiving of citizenship as a transaction.  Like: conceiving of citizenship as membership in an association, one with a rich history and intense pull, but not categorically different from other forms of association – most of which allow for multiple ties.

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