Yesterday I wrote about a soon-to-be-introduced French constitutional amendment that, in the wake of November's terrorist attacks, would strip the French citizenship of dual nationals convicted of "crimes against the nation's well-being." The amendment, which will be formally introduced to Parliament in February (where it requires a three-fifths vote for passage), is drawing criticism from those, mostly on the left, who worry that it will create de facto second-class citizenship for the 3 million French (including my wife and eldest daughter, though they are not exactly the targets…yet) who hold the passports of other countries. The ruling Socialists, who once vociferously opposed this popular-on-the-right idea, counter that the French government—like its United States counterpart—already has the power to denaturalize citizens who commit certain crimes, so why not extend that authority to natural-born dual citizens, too?
The debate may prove to be academic—a new opinion poll shows 86 percent of French people saying oui to the idea. If approved, the amendment might still be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights, but don't hold your breath: Citizenship-stripping in the name of fighting terrorism is on the rise worldwide, including in Europe.
Britain in 2014 made it possible to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals if they are convicted of terrorism or disloyalty, in addition to naturalized citizens who don't have a second nationality. Yes, Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she can make you stateless.
The Australians passed a law similar to their colonial overlords' this month, minus the statelessness. Canada passed such a law under the previous Conservative government, but the freshly elected Liberals (who campaigned on the issue) have suspended the practice. The Dutch are considering (at least according to the most up-to-date information I could find) two amendments to the Netherlands Nationality Act that would revoke citizenship on terrorism/jihadi-related grounds. Other such initiatives are underway in Belgium, Norway, and reportedly Switzerland and Slovenia, among others.
The safe bet is that—like traveling without a passport, banking without government access to your account, and crossing a border without sharing your biometric data—naturalized citizens having the same legal status as natural-born citizens will eventually go the way of the dodo bird. Since we're talking about dirty foreign terrorists here, there will likely be no popular pushback against this trend.
In the United States, the House of Representatives this July passed a bill revoking or blocking the passport (i.e., freedom to travel) of "any individual whom the Secretary [of State] has determined has aided, assisted, abetted, or otherwise helped an organization the Secretary has designated as a foreign terrorist organization." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in 2014 introduced a bill that would strip the nationality of any Americans deemed to have provided "material assistance" to organizations designated as terrorist. You don't have to be a libertarian paranoiac to see how such mushy definitions might—scratch that, would definitely—lead to grotesque cases of individual injustice against total non-terrorists.
Cruz's bill is almost certainly a constitutional non-starter, since the Supreme Court in 1958's Trop v. Dulles ruled that stripping U.S. citizenship violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment." Denationalization, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for the 5-4 majority, is "a form of punishment more primitive than torture," because it amounts to the "total destruction of the individual's status in organized society."But there is plenty of space between revoking natural-born U.S. citizenship and tightening the screws a bit on certain classes of foreigners. The latest omnibus spending bill, for example, unwaives part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which is a series of reciprocal agreements allowing the vast majority of citizens from 38 countries (basically Europe plus Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan) to travel to America for 90 days without a visa. Now the VWP (through which an estimated 20 million travelers visit the U.S. each year) will no longer cover people who are dual citizens of, or who have traveled within the last five years to, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan. It will require for the remaining visitors machine-readable passports and background checks against Interpol databases before entering the United States. Similar legislation passed the House 407-19 this month, and enjoyed the support of everyone from President Barack Obama to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
The Visa Waiver changes, which will almost certainly reduce the travel latitude of naturalized U.S. citizens from the targeted four countries (visa policies being, by definition, reciprocal) are opposed by the likes of the ACLU, The Intercept, Iranian-Americans, and the European Union ambassador to the United States. Which means that that they will likely enjoy overwhelming support among the American public.
I predict that we'll see a widening of the scope of American denaturalization, further erosions of Visa Waiver (exempting, say, natural-born French or Belgian citizens of North African descent), and an increase in bureaucratic and banking hassles on dual nationals. Coupled with Orwellian filing requirements such as FATCA, this category of changes will disincentivize certain types of foreigners from becoming part of the great American experiment. Since some miniscule percentage of those foreigners would have been sympathetic to jihad (just as some miniscule percentage of natural-born citizens, such as Syed Rizwan Farook, are), the chances of Americans giving a fig are roughly slim, none, and fat.