NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dual Nationality Laws Pose Problems

February 9, 1999

Laws which allow a person to hold recognized status in two countries are on the books in France, Great Britain, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil. Mexico adopted such a "dual nationality" law recently. Nationality is a lesser status than citizenship, say immigration experts.

Although it's technically possible for a dual national to lose U.S. citizenship, courts and Congress have made that very unlikely. So the State Department looks the other way.

Analysts say dual nationality laws may contain pitfalls.

  • A national of a country owes allegiance to it -- which may include military service or payment of taxes.
  • Dual nationals who hold U.S. citizenship qualify for public benefits no longer available to non-citizens and they keep their U.S. voting rights while gaining a greater say in the government of another nation.
  • Critics charge that dual status strikes at the heart of the civic commitment necessary to preserve a nation.

Nearly three million Mexican nationals gained legal status here through the 1986 amnesty. Critics are concerned that many of them who broke the law to come here may break the oath they swore in order to become naturalized U.S. citizens. They point out that those who swore the oath of allegiance to become Americans, if they pursue Mexican nationality, will have broken their word -- if not the law.

Source: James R. Edwards Jr., "How Dual Nationality Undermines Nations," Investor's Business Daily, February 9, 1999.


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