Why you should care
Because maybe dual citizenship should become a thing of the past.
This week: Should Immigrants Be Forced to Forsake Their Homelands? Let us know by email or in the comments below.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m a Brit who’s been living in America for nearly six years … and I don’t really like America. I don’t like American sports; I don’t like American TV; I don’t like American attitudes about politics, religion, military matters or history. I tried cornbread for the first time last week, and I didn’t even like that.
Why don’t you go back to your own country? It’s a slur often thrown with both ignorance and malice at racial minorities who are actually as American as apple pie. But perhaps it perfectly applies to me. Why don’t I head back to the United Kingdom? Well, apart from my girlfriend, friends and colleagues, I’m here for the country’s good jobs and high salaries. My migration to this country amounts to little more than an economic exchange with Uncle Sam, with me receiving the opportunities afforded to me by American capitalism in exchange for a few tax dollars. Meanwhile, my VPN keeps me tuned to the BBC, and a local shop stocks enough British food to keep me rooted firmly in my bubble. I’m in good company in Silicon Valley, where recent research found that 71 percent of tech employees are foreign-born. My neighborhood in Sunnyvale is the quintessential American suburbia (lawns and picket fences stretching to the horizon), with one thing missing: the stars and stripes on every porch.
So maybe America should demand more from its immigrants.
Maybe we should make visa interviews a bit more like marriages, with a vow of eternal faithfulness.
As a visa holder, I’ve never had to swear loyalty to the flag, learn the words to the national anthem or anything about U.S. history — I’ve never even had to express a passing interest in or affection toward American values. Even if I went the whole mile and jumped through all those hoops to get a U.S. passport (including declaring that “I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty”), I could still hold onto all legal ties to the U.K. through the wonders of dual citizenship. Perhaps America should fix that too — by making immigrants give up all ties to their homeland when they commit to making America their home. Maybe we should make visa interviews more like marriages, hinged on a vow of eternal faithfulness.
In recent years, immigration has become one of the most politically and culturally divisive debates, weighed down with the baggage of racial bias, historic injustice and scapegoating — and not just in the United States, but also in the U.K., elsewhere in Europe, Australia and beyond. But I’m focused simply on the idea of buying into the idea of America. “What is immigration for? Is it to make new Americans, or is it to oil the wheels of the global economy?” asks Mark Krikorian, executive director of the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies. In answering his own question, Krikorian argues for lower immigration with the goal of “patriotic assimilation” — by which he means everyone in the U.S. pledging their primary political loyalty to America.
But of course, to many, the very concept of immigration is pretty much the most American thing one can do. As one among a nation of immigrants, maybe I shouldn’t be asking what this country should be doing to shape me, but what I should be doing to shape this country. My British TV, food and cynical view of all things American might not demonstrate a failure of the systems of Americanization but instead, serve as rich additions to the colorful tapestry of U.S. multiculturalism.
Krikorian disagrees. In his opinion, multiculturalism is “an ideology that rejects national identity,” and as such “is pernicious and anti-American.” But he credits its failure to a surprising problem: technology. He blames tech for shrinking the world, so much so that today’s immigrants face an entirely new reality to those of past, when it was impossible to live transnationally.
So don’t blame me for my failure to integrate. Blame my VPN.
What do you think? Should all immigrants have to vow commitment to America, forsaking all others, marriage-style? Let us know via email or in the comments below.