As Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee displayed a very welcoming attitude towards illegal immigrants--such as supporting a law to give subsdized in-state college tuition to illegal aliens who had lived in Arkansas for three years. Such a law would have resulted in the taxpayers of Arkansas giving a subsidy to a citizen of Mexico which could not be enjoyed by a citizen of Michigan.
Now, in the midst of a Republican nomination battle in which many voters seem strongly opposed to illegal immigration, Governor Huckabee has veered to the other extreme, and proposes to crack down on legal immigrants, as well as native-born Americans. Item 8 of his "Secure American Plan" promises to:
Impose civil and/or criminal penalties on American citizens who illegitimately use their dual status (e.g., using a foreign passport, voting in elections in both a foreign country and the U.S.).Let's consider the second item first: a few countries (such as Italy) which recognize dual citizenship allow non-resident nationals to vote in their elections. Indeed, the Italian parliament even has several seats which are elected by Italian citizens living abroad. It seems obvious that encouraging American citizens who can vote in foreign elections to do so would be in the strategic interests of the United States. A person who resides in America, and who is a citizen of both of the United States and Italy, is probably going to be a stronger supporter of Italo-American friendship than is an Italian-only citizen living in Italy.
The same point applies to dual citizens of Mexico and the U.S. who live in the U.S.; more so than Mexican-only citizens who live in Mexico, the dual citizens are likely to vote for Mexican candidates who favor friendly relations with the United States. I am sure there are exceptions which could be found, but on the whole, encouraging dual citizens to vote in foreign elections would generally promote the election of pro-American candidates.
Of course the converse is also true. Persons with dual citizenship who vote in the U.S. would more likely to vote for a pro-Italy (or pro-Mexico) candidate. If we are willing to allow a particular person to be a U.S. citizen, it would be perverse (and perhaps a violation of the 15th Amendment) to try to discourage that person from voting in U.S. elections. And it would be harmful to American interests to discourage that person from voting in a foreign election.
The other part of Huckabee's promised crackdown involves persons "using a foreign passport." Under current U.S. policy, a person with dual citizenship must use her American passport whenever she enters or leaves the United States.
Current U.S. policy also explicitly states that, while dual citizenship is lawful, an American citizen cannot use dual citizenship to gain any legal advantage under American law, and the person must obey the laws of both countries. For example, the U.S. has a tourism embargo with Cuba, but France has no such embargo. If a person with dual Franco-American citizenship used a French passport to enter Cuba for a vacation, the person could properly be prosecuted under American laws forbidding tourist visits to Cuba. Accordingly, any non-innocent uses of a foreign passport by an American citizen are already covered by existing law.
What is not forbidden by current law--but what would apparently be forbidden by President Huckabee--is innocent uses of a foreign passport.For example, an American who is also a citizen of Ireland takes a vacation in Poland. At the Warsaw airport, the passport control lines for EU citizens are much shorter than the lines of non-EU citizens, so the person uses her Irish passport to enter Poland. Such use of the Irish passport does no harm to American interests, or to the woman's duties as an American citizen.
Or suppose that the women goes on a visit to Ireland. As she passes through Irish passport control, it would be more proper for her to use the passport issued by the Republic of Ireland than to use another passport. It is matter of courtesy that the person should use the passport issued by the country of admission. Indeed, the woman might need to use that passport: perhaps she wants to rent a cottage by the Irish Sea for several months and write poetry; an Irish passport allows her to do, and an American passport does not.
Only a true xenophobe would find anything wrong with the dual Irish-American citizen using her Irish passport to spend a half-year in Ireland.
I do not believe that Governor Huckabee is a xenophobe. I do believe that in his haste to distance himself from his own record on illegal immigration, he has endorsed policies which will harm native-born Americans who happen to hold dual citizenship, and will also harm legal immigrants who hold dual citizenship. His poor judgment on this issue is of direct concern to the many loyal Americans who have dual citizenship, and might also be of concern to all other Americans, as an example of a style of hasty, politically-driven decision-making which can have unintended consequences.