Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Man Without a Country

Petrarch writes:

People who have legally come into the U.S. as tourists, students, or permanent residents may not have sworn loyalty as citizens, but they've at least acknowledged the supremacy of our laws by obeying them on the way in. In return, legal immigrants do share in basic rights of due process that we've chosen to grant them as well as the core inalienable human rights granted them by their Creator.

But they most certainly do not have the full rights of citizens - they can't bear arms, they can't vote, they must under Federal law carry proof of legal residency at all times. Most importantly, We the People can revoke their permission to be here at any time we choose and send them out of the country - we cannot do that to U.S. citizens since we don't practice exiling.

Illegal immigrants have no such link; by their very presence, they show a complete disregard of and contempt for our laws and for our culture. Particularly for those from right next door in Mexico, all too many view themselves as primarily loyal to that country rather than to America where they're living unlawfully. Obviously, foreign terrorists have no loyalty whatsoever to the United States, their whole goal being to wage war on the enemy's side, but illegals aren't much more loyal.

Having forcefully and visibly rejected the responsibilities of citizenship, by what right do either terrorists or illegal immigrants claim the civil and Constitutional rights reserved to citizens alone? None whatsoever.

Well said. But does this go too far?

U.S. law identifies seven categories of acts that could result in loss of citizenship. They include serving in the armed forces of a foreign state at war with the United States, renouncing nationality when the United States is at war, and treason. Sponsors said the law needs to be updated to combat terrorism.

The [Terrorist Expatriation Act] would expand the revocation law to anyone who provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the secretary of state. It also would apply to anyone who engages in, or supports, hostilities against the U.S. or its allies.

Under current law, when an American citizen serves in the armed forces of a foreign country, he is rightly viewed as having transferred his allegience to that nation state. (This rule somehow doesn't apply to people like Rahm Emmanuel, who served in the Israeli armed forces. Go figure.)

But Al Qaeda is not a nation-state. It has no government. It has no territory. Under long-standing international law, it has no lawful status as a combatant. If a naturalized American allies himself with such an organization, I have no problem stripping his citizenship; let his nation-of-origin deal with him. But an American-born citizen has no other country. If we take his citizenship, what becomes of him? He is a citizen of nowhere.

Call me squeamish, but . . . I'm squeamish about creating men-without-a-country.

10 comments:

Erik said...

The Constitution has a pretty specific definition of treason: "levying War against them [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort". I don't know why this wouldn't apply.

But what is the point of stripping citizenship? To bypass due process? Why should Faisal Shahzad be treated any differently then Tim McVeigh?

Professor Hale said...

I also don't see any point to stripping citizenship. Being a convicted felon carries pretty much the same weight and it is not like we are going to deport a guy convicted of parking a car bomb in Times Square.

It is unarguably in our interest to maintain custody of such a person for the rest of his life. Loss of citizenship would merely be symbolic. Most symbolic gestures are pointless wastes of energy.

trumwill said...

I don't think there is a prohibition against serving in a foreign military so long as we're not at war with said entity (which is why I think Emanuel gets a pass). To further complicate matters, we haven't formally declared war since World War II. The question is whether or not it applies to a country where military engagement has been authorized.

samsonsjawbone said...

If we take his citizenship, what becomes of him? He is a citizen of nowhere.

Yeah, I've thought about that before. Why isn't exile a punishment anymore? Could it be because the era of the Westphalian nation-state simply doesn't know what to do with a person who is not legally allowed into any country?

trumwill said...

Exile sort of is used within the United States. Had a friend who got in a legal jam and was basically told "We're going to put out a warrant for your arrest, but it will only be statewide. So as long as you never return to this state, you're fine." It helped that she had a state to move back to.

samsonsjawbone said...

That is interesting, Will. Still, surely we can appreciate the difference between what you describe and the question of what actually would happen to a person without any legal citizenship anywhere in our modern world.

trumwill said...

I wasn't disagreeing with you, Sam. I sometimes make tangential comments that I think people might find interesting in light of the general discussion. A more relevant comment on my part would open up an avenue of discussion I am unenthusiastic about.

Professor Hale said...

Lack of citizenship is not the same as exile. A citizen can be exiled and a person can have citizenship revokes without escorting them to the airport.

But generally, if someone has pissed you off that much, prison or death are better options. There is no good coming from letting your mortal enemies wander about making friends in other countries.

You can lose citizenship for serving in a foreign army. Serving in the armed forces of another state is a de facto statement of allegiance. As no man can serve two masters, also no man can serve in another army and still be considered "one of us".

Our state dept overlooks service to Israel. There is no official reason why. They also overlook service that was involuntary. If you get swept up in a press gang in Horduras while on vacation there, you are still one of us and we will take you back when your "enlistment" is over.

The whole "officially declared war" thing is meaningless. The Constitution does not say what a declaration of war looks like. Any statement by congress authorizing or supporting military action is therefore sufficient for that purpose. Passing the annual defense supplement bill for troops in Iraq and afghanistan are de facto "declarations of war".

Φ said...

They also overlook service that was involuntary. If you get swept up in a press gang in Horduras while on vacation there, you are still one of us and we will take you back when your "enlistment" is over.

Honduras press-gangs tourists? Really?

I had friends in South America who were born there to expat parents and thus held dual-citizenship, although I think one or another's country formally required them to make a choice at age 18 or so. I'm not sure how that worked. Anyway, this particular country had universal conscription at the time, and I knew at least one of them who stayed there and served an enlistment. I don't think he lost his citizenship, so I was surprised when I heard about this law.

trumwill said...

The whole "officially declared war" thing is meaningless. The Constitution does not say what a declaration of war looks like. Any statement by congress authorizing or supporting military action is therefore sufficient for that purpose. Passing the annual defense supplement bill for troops in Iraq and afghanistan are de facto "declarations of war".

I'm not sure it's been tested. However, serving in the armed forces of a country with which we are not in military conflict is, as far as I know, not a threat to your citizenship. If you're born to a US mother and Canadian father, I don't think you would lose your US citizenship if you joined up with the Canadian military. Ditto for Israel.