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Week of: March 4, 2001

All Americans Should Take This Oath

by F.R. Duplantier

"There can be no single American people if its members are at the same time legally and morally part of other nation-states."

For more than 200 years, immigrants wishing to become naturalized Americans have taken the following Oath of Citizenship: "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

Alarmed by "a movement in legal circles working to change the substance of the above Citizenship Oath," officials of the American Legion and the Hudson Institute have formed an alliance called the Citizenship Roundtable and issued a statement of principles calling for "reaffirmation of the Oath of Citizenship. Immigrants have strengthened America and we welcome them," they declare. "Precisely because our democracy is based upon political allegiance and our common civic culture . . . the meaning of this allegiance should be affirmed for millions of new Americans."

In a recent issue of The American Legion Magazine, John Fonte of the Hudson Institute identifies some of "the attacks on the citizenship process," which include "ending the requirement that new citizens renounce all prior national allegiances; ending the English language requirement for citizenship because it is 'discriminatory'; making citizenship tests easier or eliminating them altogether; changing laws to encourage noncitizen voting; promoting more dual citizenship; creating new legal categories of 'discrimination' that would consider non-citizens members of 'victim' groups and, thus, deserving of preferential treatment; [and] using recent international law on immigration to override traditional principles in U.S. constitutional law."

These attacks raise certain fundamental questions. "Is it in the best interests of American democracy for new citizens to retain their old citizenship, including political allegiance, voting rights, military service, and emotional commitment to another nation?" Fonte asks. "Is it possible to be an active, informed and loyal citizen in two countries at the same time?" he demands. "Do we wish to abandon the idea of an American people -- 'one people,' as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?"

Fonte predicts that this struggle over the meaning of citizenship "will determine if the American people will continue to be a self-governing, free people. Major trends of the past few decades, including the rise of multiculturalism, bilingualism, dual nationality, group rights and group consciousness, along with the erosion of longstanding laws and traditions, have contributed to the weakening of American citizenship," he laments. "Self-government means that we have the right to determine the rules of admission to citizenship," Fonte asserts, and those rules do, and should, include an Oath of Citizenship.


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