As Barack Obama inches toward reforming the immigration mess in America -- whenever that might be -- here's a stunning example of political rhetoric over substance.
The idea comes courtesy of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, a serious contender for the French presidency in next year's elections. That is, until she self-immolated with this doozy.
Le Pen sent a note to all 577 members of French parliament calling for an end to dual citizenship. Her rationale? "The patent failure of dual citizenship has reached various sporting events, after which young French bi-nationals don't wave our flag, but rather that of another nation."
Le Pen also questions whether France would have intervened militarily in Libya if there weren't so many Franco-Libyans on French soil, and considers the disastrous implications of any future French military intervention in Algeria, predicting a "potentially explosive situation" on French soil because of the number of Algerians in France.
First off, people hoisting Third World flags at sporting events in France aren't necessarily dual citizens. They could be residents, or illegals, or maybe even anti-imperialist French (in the same way that Noam Chomsky, who never has anything good to say about America, is 100 percent American). Citizenship doesn't automatically elicit national loyalty or pride, even by birth.
In theory, French naturalization requires five years of residency, an interview and careful selection. If France has failed to properly select in awarding citizenship, then that's the crux of the problem. Fixing it by stripping everyone of every origin of any sort of dual citizenship will hardly force integration. If anything, it's a surefire way to alienate immigrants. Personally, nothing would peeve me off more than moving to a country, fully integrating and wanting to be considered an equal in the eyes of the law, and being told that officially I would always be considered second class. My response to that, as a self-employed entrepreneur, would be to not give that country a cent of my tax dollars and send it all to my country of origin.
This is what politicians forget when they make stupid, sweeping propositions regarding immigrants: Not all are looking for handouts. Some of us come from countries with better handouts if we were really interested, thanks. We are producers, entrepreneurs, wealth creators. Rupert Murdoch is an immigrant. He became a citizen of America for practical business reasons: so he could own TV stations. Highly desirable immigrants often choose to pursue citizenship to avoid all sorts of paperwork hassles and everyday barriers. In France, for example, you can't even get financing for a stereo without citizenship or a 10-year permanent residency card.
If France ever started stripping bi-nationals of their French citizenship or forcing them to choose -- and perhaps they can start with President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni, an Italian-born naturalized French citizen, and his father, who was born in Hungary -- it's not like you could ever force them to forget where they came from.
The far right is proposing a superficial solution to a much deeper problem. The answer is in revamping economic policy to attract precisely the kind of immigrants you want.
Stop taxing businesses to death and instead offer them tax incentives for hiring locally so they don't have to import cheap labor for jobs that locals won't do (at least not without one day off out of every three, and incessant whining). To this end, French kids need to be better educated about the value of tradesmanship. A 2007 Ipsos poll revealed that nearly 70 percent of the French would encourage their kids to strive for a job shuffling paper in the civil service. The rest, judging by the popularity of business-management programs, want to sit around running things. That simply isn't feasible, lest the French managers all have to move to China, India or Africa -- or continue to bring in workers from "undesirable" countries for labor that needs to be done on-site.
Facilitating bi-citizenship, rather than threatening to strip it across the board, could in fact help resolve economic and societal woes. Making the process as easy as possible for the right kind of workers would strengthen that country's competitiveness in the global economy and create more wealth and opportunity for others in the long run. And chances are, those people aren't the kind of boors who would feel the need to wave a foreign flag while setting fire to cars in celebration of a sporting win.
And if you're curious about where this idea would place France in relation to the rest of the world on the same issue: more restrictive than America, which doesn't strip dual citizens of their American citizenship, but less restrictive than China and Russia (and Rupert Murdoch's native Australia), which generally only allow you to hold one citizenship at a time. Even the most hardcore anti-subversion attempts related to citizenship are silly, since someone can renounce their citizenship of origin as needed, then reapply for it later. None of this posturing amounts to a solution.
(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host who writes regularly for major publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.)