Letter to the Editor: Former FSM President on Dual Citizenship act
- Category: Opinion
- Published: Wednesday, 08 February 2017 09:35
- Written by John R. Haglelgam
- Hits: 11115
My Fellow FSM Citizens:
I write this Open Letter to you to share my deep concern about the proposed amendment to Section 3 of Article III of our national constitution. This current provision of our national constitution requires that an FSM citizen who is also a citizen of another country should “register his intent to remain a citizen” of our country, the Federated States of Micronesia, and “renounce his citizenship of another nation” within 3 years of his 18th birthday. In plain English, it means that a minor who holds a dual citizenship of Federated States of Micronesia and the United States, for example, because he or she was born in the United States to parents who are both FSM citizens or one was FSM citizen must register his or her intent to remain FSM citizen before he or she reaches 21 years old. If he or she fails to register as FSM citizen he or she will no longer be FSM citizen, but he or she will remain as a FSM national. A national is a person who remains in FSM, but does not have the right to run for public office and participate in state and national election.
This proposed amendment is being dressed up as a dual citizenship proposal, but is not. It deletes the citizenship provision in our national constitution, and leaves nothing in its place. Some members of our national congress tell us that the FSM Congress will enact a dual citizenship law later. The issue here is that the framers of our national constitution deemed citizenship as an important national issue that the FSM citizens must have national conversation and debate it before the voters approve or reject it in a national referendum. If our congress is given the power to enact a citizenship law, you as the member of the public and keeper of our national sovereignty will have no chance to debate and discuss the issue at all, given the current practice of almost no transparency our national congress. In essence, this proposed amendment is a disempowerment of the FSM public and voters to discuss, debate, and approve or reject any proposed amendment to the citizenship provision of our national constitution. To put it the other way, this proposed amendment is an empowerment of the FSM Congress and disempowerment of the FSM public and voters.
I think we should insist that any changes to the FSM citizenship provision in our national constitution must be approved in a national referendum because citizenship is linked directly to the ownership of land in our country. I am sure that as citizens and voters, you want to review, discuss, and debate any impact of any proposed citizenship law on your land. Here our congress is asking all of us to hand them a blank check to fashion and craft a new citizenship dual citizenship law, not knowing its impact on landownership in our country.
Now let us focus on dual citizenship itself. I think our national congress has a total misunderstanding of dual citizenship in the United States. I know that we are trying to make ourselves eligible for dual citizens of the FSM and United States. For those of us who are born here in our country, it is impossible to get that dual citizenship we coveted. We need to apply for immigration visa to migrate to the United States. We will need to meet the US government immigration law requirements. Once we are in the United States, we must go through the US naturalization process, which required us to take the OATH OF US CITIZENSHIP and pledge of allegiance. The oath of US citizenship and Pledge of Allegiance to the United States read as follows:
"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 the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God." (Emphasis mine)
As you can see, this oath of US citizenship and pledge of allegiance to United States required us to renounce our FSM citizenship. So we become US citizens and lost our FSM citizenship. We will never get dual citizenship for the FSM and US this way .
The FSM citizens who migrated to the United States under the Compact are not eligible to apply for naturalization to become US citizens. (This Compact restriction does not apply to the Micronesian citizens in the United States armed forces.) If the FSM immigrants want to apply for naturalization to become US citizens, they must return to the Federated States of Micronesia and apply for US immigration visa and wait for their visas approval. I do not know how long it takes the United States to approve immigration visas. However, I do know that the United States does not look favorable upon economic refugees’ request for immigration visas. But suppose you are lucky and you get a US immigration visa. When you migrate to the United States using your immigration visa and at some point you will take the required Oath of US citizenship and Allegiance to the United States. At his point, and as shown in the previous case, you will renounce your FSM citizenship to become US citizen. So again, you become US citizen and lost the FSM citizenship. This pathway to dual citizenship for the FSM and US is closed as it is in the previous scenario.
The people who will be benefitting from a FSM dual citizenship law vis-à-vis the United States are the children of FSM citizens who are born in the United States and the children of mixed-marriages between FSM citizens and United States citizens. For the former group, they become US citizens by virtue of being born in the United State (jus soli) pursuant to the 14th Amendment to the United States constitution. For the latter group, they will become US citizens because one parent is a citizen of the United States (jus sanguineness). So if our country allowed dual citizenship, then these people will retain their FSM citizenship as well as their US citizenship. All of my five grandchildren are in this group because they were born in the United States. Now, because none of them have reached 21 years of age, they are dual citizens of FSM and the United States. But before each of them reach the age of twenty-one, he or she will have to choose whether to renounce his or her FSM citizenship and retains the United States citizenship. If this happens, he or she will not be able to own any land or holds elective office in the FSM. From my perspective, it will be unfortunate but it is their life and it is their choice to make. If I am still alive, I will give it my blessing. My hope is that all of them will choose to renounce their US citizenship and remain FSM citizens.
I do not favor or advocate for dual citizenship for the FSM and the United States or other countries, for that matter. To me, the essence of our country, the national sovereignty and the continual development of nationalism, are paramount. I do not want to sacrifice the essence of our country for the sake of enabling my grandchildren to acquire dual citizenship. When they grow up, they will decide for themselves, and bear any consequences. The people in this group will be the only people who can acquire dual citizenship of FSM and the United States. The issues we need to address are: How many people in this group who will benefit from a proposed dual citizenship? Is it worth enacting a dual citizenship for these people and risk allowing foreigners who are able to acquire dual citizenship for FSM and their respective countries to own land in our country?
Our country’s citizenship is linked directly to our national sovereignty. Sovereignty is the supreme authority of a country to enact its own laws regarding its population and national territory within its boundary without any interference from outside. Our national sovereignty rests upon three pillars (or posts). Each of these pillars must remain strong all the time. These three pillars are (1) the territory, (2) the government, and (3) the citizens of our country. Allowing dual citizenship will weaken the third pillar because these dual citizens would have divided loyalty to our country and their other country of citizenship. Should they be loyal to the FSM or to their other country of citizenship? Citizens with divided loyalty are not compatible to a strong and robust national sovereignty.
Today our country is still struggling to develop a full blown nationalism, a prerequisite for a robust national sovereignty. Nationalism is loyalty, patriotism, and devotion to one’s own country. In essence, it is a sense of national consciousness exalting one’s own country over all other countries. Nationalism is the main ingredient of our national sovereignty.
The development of nationalism in our country is still in its infancy, like a Micronesian baby rolling around in its small baby mat. If we allow dual citizenship, it will be one more barrier to our country’s development of full nationalism and the achievement of a strong robust national sovereignty. Our national politicians treat our nation’s political development like the weather. They talk about it, but they do nothing, absolutely nothing, to enhance its development. In fact, they do the opposite. They attempt to weaken our country’s political development. This so-called dual citizenship amendment proposal is a example of contradictory political development that would weaken the essence of our country’s national sovereignty.
In insisting to allow dual citizenship, our national congress has come perilous close to violating Section 3 of Article XIII of our national constitution. This section makes it a “solemn obligation of the national and state governments to uphold the provisions of this Constitution and to advance the principles of unity upon which this Constitution is founded.” (emphasis mine) Of course, our congress can propose amendment to our national constitution at any time, but that amendment should not be harmful to the national essence of our country. This proposed dual citizenship amendment, if it can be called that, would be harmful to our national sovereignty and it is an impediment to the development of nationalism in our country.
I sometimes wonder what has happened to our congress. I spent four years of my life as member of the House of Representatives of the now-defunct Congress of Micronesia. I was elected to the first FSM Congress and served for eight years. I left at the beginning of the fifth FSM Congress to serve as the second president of our country. Our congress now is not recognizable to me anymore. The FSM Congress I knew was keen on pushing our nation’s national agenda, such as the Compact negotiation, participation in the UN Law of the Sea Conference, and convening the Micronesian Constitutional Convention. It was not interested in giving itself an enormous budget. In fact the mantra in congress at that time was always trimming the congress budget. Before I left the congress, the salary for each senator was $18,000 per annum, and the official expense allowance was $3,000 per year. These figures are puny figures in comparison to the salaries and official allowances of our national senators today. Today, members of our congress received $27,000 in salary each year and an obscenely enormous $120,000 of official expense allowance per member per year. For the fourteen national senators alone, the amount of their official expense allowance is a whopping total of $1,680,000.00 per year. For a poor country such as our, this amount is morally and ethically unjustified. It is a complete rip-off of our national treasury. It is a violation of our congress members’ fiduciary relationship with the FSM public. As members of our national congress, the senators are the trustees, and the guardians of our national treasury. They should safeguard our national treasury, not raiding it for their own benefit and for enhancement of their reelection.
Another despicable practice that members of our congress are engaging in is offering scholarship of their own under their own control. This practice is good for their reelection, but it violates the separation of power between the congress and the executive branch, a main doctrine of our national constitution. The FSM Supreme Court has ruled in Udot v FSM Finance that this kind of practice is violative of our national constitution. And yet, members of our congress continue to engage in this kind of activity without any legal consequences.
Unfortunately, our constitution does not prescribed any penalty for violation of its provision such as the separation of power and violation of public trust and ethic by members of our congress. However, as voters, you are not entirely helpless. The purpose of election is to evaluate the performance of your representatives in our national congress. On March 3rd of this year, you will have your chance to vote. If you disagree with what is happening in our congress and the direction it has led our country, by all means express your disagreement through your vote. Send them an unequivocal message that they never forget.
I want to conclude this open letter by saying that this so-called dual citizenship proposal is bad for our country. It has the potential of allowing foreigners, when they become dual citizens, to own land in our country. Furthermore, only a small group of people can acquire dual citizenship for FSM and the United States, the main purpose of this amendment effort.
The damage a dual citizenship amendment will do to our sovereignty and nationalism is incalculable because the impact can only be measured over time. However, I encourage you to consider what I have said in this open letter before you cast your vote on the so-called dual citizenship amendment proposal.
Thank you very much and I remain
John R. Haglelgam