Immigration a hot topic
Mark Mardell | 16:29 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009

44. At 09:16am on 23 Apr 2009, pauljap wrote:
#6 guiwhiz wrote:
"Only citizens get 'the franchise' and a right to vote. That is one of the defining aspects of citizenship."

Who has the Right to Vote in Britain?

1. British electoral law provides for the citizens of Commonwealth countries, British Dependent Territories, and the Republic of Ireland to vote in both local and general elections in the UK. The Representation of the People Act, 1918, provided that only British subjects could register as electors. However, the term ?British subject? included any person who, at that time, owed allegiance to the Crown, regardless of the crown territory in which they were born.
This included Commonwealth citizens and has never been revised.
Rwanda, Sudan, Algeria, Madagascar and Yemen have applied to join the Commonwealth and Mozambique is already a member.
France considered membership of the Commonwealth in the 1950s but were rejected by the UK. A year later France signed up to the Treaty of Rome starting what is now the EU.

2. Entitlement to vote in general elections is reciprocated for UK citizens only in the Republic of Ireland and a small number of (mainly West Indian) countries: Antigua & Barbuda; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Mauritius; St. Lucia and St. Vincent & The Grenadines.

3. Citizens of other EU countries may vote in European Parliamentary and local elections but not in general elections. There are reciprocal arrangements for British citizens resident in other EU countries to vote in local elections.
Malta & Cyprus are both in the EU and the Commonwealth so their citizens can vote in local and general elections in the UK but UK citizens cannot vote in their elections.

86. At 1:58pm on 25 Apr 2009, JorgeG1 wrote:

There are two types of freedom of movement in the EU, or rather one type for the general EU and another one for opt-outs:

- The general principle of freedom of movement applies to PERSONS, irrespective of the flag on their passport. So anybody can cross the borders between France and Germany, for example, as there are no border controls but non-EEA nationals resident in France, for example, do not have automatic right to live or work in another EU-Schengen country, whether they cross the (non-policed) border or not. This principle is stated in Art. 26.2 of the Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:

" The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured "

- The principle of freedom of movement that applies in the UK (and Ireland, as a direct consequence of the UK opt-out) differentiates between PERSONS and NON-PERSONS and only EU or EEA nationals enjoy the category of PERSONS. This means several things:

1. Picket fences with border police separating the UK and the rest of the EU so that the British police state can filter out human beings that do not have the category of PERSONS (remember, the EU freedom of movement applies to PERSONS) according to UK law, and therefore are denied freedom of movement from the EU to the UK

2. This in turn means that non EEA nationals legally resident in EU countries need to apply for a visa to come to the UK

3. It also means that the hundreds of thousands (possibly over a million) of legal residents and taxpayers in Britain that do not hold a EEA passport do not have the right of freedom of movement inside the EU, i.e. they need a visa if they want to go for a booze trip to Calais (not that many of them are booze trippers anyway, but something that the general populace takes for granted)

4. Finally, it means that non EU or EEA tourists or business travellers, e.g. from China, need one visa to visit any or all of the 25 Schengen countries, but need a second visa if their trip involves the UK as well. (There are countries exempt from visa, either for the UK or for the Schengen area, e.g. the US).

102. At 11:14am on 27 Apr 2009, hjuneja wrote:
I'm an American born to immigrant parents now living in Europe, so have a very unique insight into this debate.

Immigration in an American context is very different from immigration in a European context. To put it plainly, immigration in America works well naturally -- and therefore should continue to be encouraged strongly. Meanwhile immigration in Europe is a disaster no matter how much time policymakers sink -- and therefore the misgivings about immigration in the European context seem to be entirely justified.

In America, non-white immigrants come to America willing to become Americans, and existing Americans are ready to embrace them as such. Not sure which came first - the "chicken" or the "egg" - but regardless this means a positive social dynamic with a favorable feedback loop. Immigrants in America also tend to be higher skilled with stronger educational backgrounds and seem far more likely to slot themselves directly in to the middle class. This in turn reduces feelings of discrimination among minorities as well as among the mainstream. This also means immigrants are more likely to live in mainstream middle class America, and consequently that their children are likely to be born and raised in that America. The next generation intermarries at a very high rate, further diluting ties with the ancestral land and forging its entry into the American melting pot with a solely American identity. On the whole, this leads to a situation where immigrants and their children make enormous (one could argue even outsized) contributions to American society, dynamism and prosperity.

The picture for immigration in Europe is starkly different. Europe lacks a the long track record and cultural parameters for assimilation of immigrants into mainstream European society. Whereas most Americans have an inherent understanding that blood and nationality need not be the same, in Europe blood, nationality and soil have been joined together (at least psychologically) for generations. So Europeans have a harder time accepting immigrants as anything other than indefinite expats. However, at the same time, immigrants who come to Europe also find it difficult to let go of their cultural traditions and embrace their new societies. So while they often complain bitterly about the European mainstream not accepting them, the reality is that they also isolate themselves and frankly don't really want to join the European mainstream anyway in order to zealously guard "their culture." This is hammered into the next generation, who are deeply discouraged from assimilation for fear of "selling out." In contrast to America, this leads to a negative feedback loop in Europe. This leads to ghettos and isolated immigrant communities across Europe. The next generation is not fully comfortable culturally in the new homeland, which hampers their professional and social integration society. They do not intermarry and even, to my astonishment, bring partners from the old country to marry them here in Europe. Therefore, most never assimilate even by the second or third generations.

In addition to this, because of Europe's generous social benefits, immigrants to Europe are often more motivated by free housing, welfare, healthcare, etc rather than sheer ambition. The ambitious ones go to America - since they are more motivated by the financial upside than by collecting benefits (of which there aren't much in the US). This means immigrants to Europe tend to be less skilled, from less educated backgrounds and often from more rural/less Westernized segments of society from their original countries. This is a further complicating factor as it means that for many of the Europe-bound immigrants, it's already a much bigger jump into Western society than for America-bound ones.

Just thought I'd share my two cents. Many immigrant families (including mine, which is transatlanic) love to compare whether Europe or America is less welcoming. Unfortunately for Europeans, the vast majority seem to think the answer is Europe. However, I do not agree with that analysis. I do that immigration just doesn't work in Europe as well as it does in America - for many reasons: cultural, historical, economic, etc. And the immigrants in Europe are just as much responsible as anyone else since they stubbornly cling on to their old countries, which makes their claims that their new countries don't fully welcome them ring hollow to my ears. However, the real challenge for Europe as others have mentioned is demographic -- and the long run economic implications of its demography should provide significant incentives to Europeans to get immigration right.
complain about this comment

103. At 3:56pm on 27 Apr 2009, SKV_USA wrote:
#102. Hi hjuneja,
Don't abuse generalization :).

1. "In America, non-white immigrants come to America willing to become Americans".

First of all you need define what does "become Americans" mean :)).

It used to be the case. Now in California/Florida/New Jersey we have neighborhoods/towns with >%50 populations are illegal immigrants. They don't assimilate a all. They come here for pure economical reasons, end up suck in poverty and hate 'gringos' who deny them booty.
Legal immigration comes on much smaller scale and somewhat captured in assimilation network. Even to cope with legal immigration USA school are transformed from knowledge providers to assimilation machines. Educational standards set to lowest common denominator blend culture differences and do not aliened kids those background don't value education.
Check my post #63 on how today immigration benefits US.

2. "in Europe blood, nationality and soil have been joined together". This is true for East Europe. Where interbreed was relatively low. Most West Europe count nationality by culture. Medieval realities made impossible to preserve pure blood lines. Rape was widespread during frequent medieval wars. Cross national marriages were common among noblemen.

3. I see that immigrants from Europe/Asia/India are more willing to integrate into US society. I don't see the same for immigrants from Pakistan/Africa/Latin America. It is not racial gap but rather educational. Educated people much more easy to adjust. That back to my point that why US and Europe alike put huge time bombs by inviting and nursing huge underclass that cannot adjust/assimilate. Why we need these burden?

Bill would let non-citizens of U.S. vote in local elections
March 27, 2009

AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are preparing to consider a bill that would let communities choose to allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in municipal elections.

Proponents argue that letting non-citizen immigrants vote on local issues would include them in the community and provide incentive for them to pursue citizenship.

Critics say voting is a right that should be reserved for U.S. citizens, and some suggest that newcomers to the country don't necessarily have the language skills or the knowledge of issues needed to make an informed vote.

Specifics on the bill would need to be developed in the committee, but Alfond said he envisions it applying to immigrants who are here legally. And it would be community governing bodies – town or city councils – that could decide whether to allow the non-citizens to vote in local elections.

Ron Hayduk, professor of political science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and author of the book "Democracy for All," said immigrants who are not citizens are allowed to vote in a number of communities.

Chicago, for instance, allows them to vote in school elections, and six towns in Maryland allow them to vote in all local elections. They can vote in the Massachusetts towns of Cambridge, Amherst and Newton, Hayduk said, and proposals have been made to do the same in Chelsea and Somerville. And the issue probably will resurface in Boston after a 2007 defeat.

The basic argument for allowing non-citizens to vote is that groups excluded from voting are more likely to be discriminated against, Hayduk said.

"It thwarts the power, the potential and promise of democracy," he said. "We're all served by having a government that's more representative, more accountable and more responsive to all its members."

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the mechanics of allowing non-citizens to vote would be pretty simple. Non-citizens couldn't be included in the electronic, federally funded voter rolls, so a separate paper list of voters would have to be kept, he said.

Dunlap said he doesn't think Alfond's proposal does any harm.

"Whenever you get more people to participate, you add legitimacy to that process," Dunlap said. "The voice of the public, I think, is extraordinarily important."

Hans Von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said he sees several problems with the non-citizen proposal.

If local, state and federal elections are generally printed on the same ballot, they would have to be separated to allow non-citizens to vote. And getting a voter registration card could be a way to thwart federal labor laws,

"At the core of it, I think it's a bad idea, because people who are here as residents are not people who have assimilated and become part of the American culture and the American society," said Von Spakovsky, whose parents were immigrants. "They have made a decision not to become U.S. citizens. That means they have not entered the U.S. social compact."

Illegal immigrant voting a reality in some statesBy John Hilliard
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 09, 2009 @ 01:01 PM

While voting rights for non-citizens sparks controversy here, other states allow residents without U.S. citizenship a chance to vote in some elections.

In Takoma Park, Md., non-citizens have been able to vote in local elections since March 1992, said the city clerk, Jessie Carpenter.

"The intention (was) to provide all the residents of the city the opportunity to vote in city elections," said Carpenter.

City officials ask for a residents' citizenship status when they register to vote, and those without U.S. citizenship are registered in a separate voting roll from the other voters, she said.

A few other Maryland communities allow non-citizen voting, but Takoma Park, a city of 18,000 with a large immigrant population from Central America and Africa, is the largest of them, she said. Non-citizens vote can vote for mayor, city council and on ballot questions, she said.

Maryland law gives cities and towns leeway to determine rules for local municipal elections, she said, allowing them to decide for themselves whether to allow non-citizen voting. Because Maryland school committees are county-based, they fall under state election laws which require U.S. citizenship to vote in state and federal elections, she said.

Despite allowing non-citizens the right to vote for years, turnout among non-citizens hasn't factored much in local elections.

At least two Massachusetts communities - Amherst and Cambridge - approved measures that would allow non-citizen voting, but neither was implemented because the Legislature failed to act on them. (Massachusetts law requires voters to be U.S. citizens, and those communities' voting measures would need an exemption approved by state lawmakers.)

Amherst's town manager, Laurence Shaffer, said his town's 2003 Town Meeting decision was a "statement of values" that recognized that non-citizen residents who live in the town are affected by local decisions, and should have a role in that process.

The measure didn't make a distinction between non-citizens living legally in the U.S. and illegal immigrants, he said.

Voting rights have always "been expanded rather than retracted. It's (an) extension of democracy and immigration," said Shaffer.

In Cambridge, the City Council voted a similar measure in 2003, according to the city's Web site.

Eva A. Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said the group appreciated Richardson's initial support of voting rights for non-citizens. The group, which represents about 1 million immigrants, including at least 250,000 green card holders, testified in support of a 2007 bill that would have allowed some voting rights in local elections.

But Millona said the voting issue is not a priority for the group, as it has a full agenda - such as backing in-state public college tuition rates for non-citizens and domestic violence prevention programs. The group doesn't support offering voting rights to illegal immigrants, she said.

"When it comes to voting rights with undocumented immigrants, that's where we draw the line," said Millona.

Under fire - Rep. criticized for supporting voting rights for illegals
By: Lurdes C. da Silva 04/17/2009

Even more expansive is the reasoning of Eric Nkusi, the executive director of a Portland immigrant-advocacy group called the Intore Club. "We pay the same taxes," he says, an argument that would even apply to Canadian tourists who stop at gas stations on their way to their annual winter sunburn in Florida.
There's nothing to stop Maine legislators from passing LD 1195 but the apparently slender thread of their own common sense. Federal law and the U.S. Constitution have little to say on the subject of local elections, and a handful of small towns already allow it - notably Takoma Park, Md., a people's-republic suburb of Washington that has also declared itself a nuclear-free zone and severed diplomatic relations with Burma.

Saturday, Apr. 11, 2009

Immigrant voting is perilous step

immigrants, legal and otherwise, play an important role in the U.S. economy. But if they're interested in voting, they need to learn the language, the history and the political culture - that is, they need to become citizens.
The odd thing is that actual immigrants, as opposed to the politicians seeking to manipulate them, show little interest in this. Remember Takoma Park?
In most elections, their turnout is barely 10 percent; in 2007, the city council contest was a flat zero: Not a single one of the several hundred registered non-U.S.-citizens bothered to show up

Advocates of this position use many arguments — about fairness, representation, teaching democracy, increasing participation, expanding democracy, being welcoming to immigrants, the large number of Hispanics who are not yet citizens, and so on. They buttress their claims with the fact that several foreign counties now allow immigrants to vote in local elections, that some American states and territories once allowed it, and that some localities allow it now.

This last fact, that there are several municipalities in the United States that currently allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, may come as somewhat of a surprise. The best known of these is Takoma Park, Md., which introduced the practice in 1992, although its legality has never been tested in the courts. In addition, legislation has been formally introduced in a number of cities, including New York City1 and Washington, D.C.,2 and in at least two states — New York and Minnesota3 — to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. In Massachusetts, the cities of Amherst, Cambridge, and Newton have approved measures to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, but the ordinances require approval by the state legislature, which has not yet acted favorably on these proposals. A number of other cities are in the initial stages of considering such schemes.

Chicago allows non-citizens to vote in school board elections, and New York did until elected school boards were abolished in 2003. Boulder, Colo., recently introduced a measure to allow non-citizens to serve on city boards and commissions.4 And in City Heights, Calif., all residents, regardless of citizenship, are able to vote for members of the Planning Committee.5

The Debate Over Non-Citizen Voting: A Primer

By Stanley Renshon
April 2008

Voting has always been a critical element of full citizenship; courts have called it the essential element. It is true that over 80 years ago, some states allowed resident non-citizens to vote. However, this was always an exception to a more general rule that preserved voting for citizens. By the 1920s, non-citizen voting had been ended by legislation, duly debated and passed by the people’s representatives and signed into law by their governors, and with good reason.

Voting is one of the few, and doubtlessly the major, difference between citizens and non-citizens. Citizenship itself, and open access to it, is one of the major unifying mechanisms of E Pluribus Unum. When citizenship loses its value — and it would if voting were not an earned privilege — a critical tie that helps bind this diverse country together will be lost. Given the challenges that face us, this should not be done lightly.

What of fairness? Don’t non-citizens pay taxes, and therefore isn’t it unfair to not allow them to vote? That argument assumes that non-citizens get nothing for their taxes, and need the vote to compensate for that. However, the truth is that immigrants from most countries enjoy an immediate rise in their standard of living because of this country’s advanced infrastructure — for example, hospitals, electricity, communications. They also get many services for their taxes — like public transportation, police, trash collection, and so on. Most importantly and immediately they get what they came for: freedom and opportunity.

What of serving in the armed forces? If they can serve, why can’t they vote? The difference here is between can and must. Non-citizens can serve if they volunteer, but they are not required to serve as part of the citizenship process. When they do volunteer, they earn this country’s gratitude and, by presidential order, a shortening of the time period before they can become citizens.

Doesn’t voting help immigrants learn about their new country? Yes, but the fallacy of that argument is the assumption that there are not other, less damaging ways, to do so. No law bars non-citizens from learning democracy in civic organizations or political parties. No law keeps them from joining unions or speaking out in public forums. Indeed, no law bars them from holding responsible positions within all these groups. In all of these many ways, legal residents can learn about their new country and its civic traditions. Voting is not the only means to do so, and may not even be the best since it can be done from start to finish with the pull of a lever.

What of representation? Isn’t it bad for democracy and against democratic principles to have so many people unrepresented? The first problem with this argument is that the condition is temporary and easily remedied by time and patience. Second, the very fact that advocates push non-citizenship voting undercuts the argument that this group’s interests are not represented. This country is a republic, not a democracy. We depend on our representatives to consider diverse views. The views of legal non-citizen residents are no exception. The more such persons take advantage of the many opportunities to participate in our civic and political life, the more likely it is that their voices will be heard.

Well, what about participation? Won’t giving non-citizens the vote increase participation, and isn’t that good for democracy? The answers to those two questions are no and maybe. The record of non-citizen voters should lead all of us to pause and reflect. When New York City allowed non-citizens to vote in local school-board elections, presumably something in which they had a direct, personal, and immediate stake, less that 5 percent of that group did so. Takoma Park, Md., often cited as a model by advocates, refuses to ascertain whether non-citizen voters are in the country legally. Even so, their participation went from a high point of 25 percent in 1997, to 12 percent in the next election, and 9 percent in the election thereafter. In November 2007, only 10 non-citizens voted.47 In a special election held that year, "officials took extra steps to get the word out. They mailed a notice, in Spanish and English, to every home. They sent a second notice to every registered voter," yet not a single non-citizen voted.48 In the end, the touted benefits of non-citizen voting participation turn out to be very small and in some cases non-existent — very small gain upon which to sacrifice such a core element of American citizenship.

There are many things this country could and should do to make new immigrants feel welcomed. We could, and should, provide free English classes to all those who want them — and that want is great. We could set up classes to help immigrants learn about the nuts and bolts of our country’s life — how do you get insurance, why do you raise your hand in class. We take these things for granted, but new immigrants cannot. If elected officials really want to help new immigrants, these initiatives would be of direct and immediate
benefit and won’t have the downside of destroying citizenship.

Every effort should be made to integrate legal immigrants into our national community. Yet, isn’t it fair to ask that they know something about that community before they fully take up the responsibilities, and not just the advantages, of what has been the core of citizenship? Some non-citizen voting proposals would require three years as a legal resident — saving a mere two years before naturalization and the vote. Others suggest a period of only one year or less, allowing people practically just off the plane to help make complex public decisions.

Advocates of non-citizen voting do not discus whether these new voters would need to demonstrate language proficiency or knowledge of this country, as they must now do for naturalization. Would that requirement be waived? Nor have they said what they would do if many decided there was no longer a need to become a citizen — since they already can vote.

In the end, we do immigrants, and this country, no favor — indeed, we likely to do damage — by giving in to demands for erasing the distinction between immigrants and citizens.



Right of foreigners to vote
Electoral rights for foreign nationals: a comparative overview

The case for introducing electoral rights for foreign nationals can be built on some basic principles of liberalismand democracy. 4 The starting point in this context is that no person should be subject to political decisions for longer periods of time without being able to take influence on them; and the most important way to influence political decisions in a democracy is the participation in elections (as a voter or also as a candidate). The onlylegitimate (but not necessarily imperative) criteria for the exclusion from electoral rights are: a) non-residence in the territory in which a political decision is made, 5 b) incapability to form a political opinion or to make political judgements (because of a mental handicapor because the person is too young),c) (certain) crimes committed in the past, which can be interpreted as proof of the fact that the respective person does not take into account the effects of his/her actions and decisions on other persons, whichmakes him/her unfit to participate in political decisions, andd) a stay in the territory which is too short yet (so that persons had no chance to make themselves acquainted with the political institutions, actors and topics in the respective territory) and/or which will most likely be only temporary in nature (which means that persons will not be subject to the consequences of their decisions). None of these criteria justifies the exclusion of immigrants or foreign nationals from elections: They are not all, of course, mentally handicapped, minors or criminals, and the fact that they are immigrants and/or do not hold the country‘s citizenship does not make them incapable of forming a political opinion or of acting in a considerate manner. The condition that they should be able to become acquainted with politics in the respective

territory can be met by introducing minimum residence requirements (even though it can also be argued thatsound political judgements do not depend on the duration of residence). And as long as they do not hold a residence permit or visa with limited renewability which only permits a temporary stay, their stay should beconsidered as indefinite, even though some of them will leave the country again. 6 In sum: not citizenship shouldbe the relevant criterion for deciding who is granted electoral rights but residence in the respective territory; andthe basic rule in this respect is —the longer one stays, the stronger one‘s moral claims“ (Carens 2002, 108). But why should foreign residents be granted the right to vote when they have the option to get access to electoral rights by acquiring the respective country‘s citizenship? The case for electoral rights for foreign nationals isindeed considerably weakened if a country makes the acquisition of citizenship very easy (entitlement toacquisition, short periods of residence required, no fees, few and easy-to-meet or no further conditions, norequirement to renounce previous nationality). However, especially first-generation immigrants may still havelegitimate reasons not to naturalize in another country, e.g. because they would lose citizenship in their countryof origin, because the would forfeit hereditary titles or the right to own land there, or because it would mean a serious break in the person‘s identity. Permanently excluding people with such reasons from political decisions is problematic: in a world of international migration, assuming or even demanding that persons have interests inor identify with only one country and that they should be able to easily give up interests in and emotional attachments to other countries (and holding nationality of a country may be a matter of strong emotional attachment), is simply unrealistic. A number of other reasons against electoral rights for foreign nationals are often brought forward. Let me justdiscuss four lines of argumentation: • Argument 1: By giving foreigners electoral rights, the boundary between citizens and non-citizens becomes blurred and citizenship is devalued because it is not tied to any substantial additional rights anymore that go beyond the set of rights already granted to foreign residents. Instead, naturalization should be encouraged so that immigrants can participate on a completely equal footing. Electoral rights should therefore be reserved for citizens and with respect to the rights attached to them there should be a cleardividing line between the statuses of citizen and foreigner.The argument can easily be turned around: Citizenship will be devalued on a much larger scale if foreigners have to acquire it for instrumental reasons because they simply want to enjoy the rights which have beenwithheld from them as foreign nationals. If, in contrast, naturalization is facilitated and encouraged by other methods than upholding discriminatory rules for foreign nationals, the acquisition of citizenship will muchmore likely take place if the person concerned strongly identifies with the new state and wants to expressthis by becoming its citizen. The acquisition of citizenship should, of course, be encouraged because onlythen foreign nationals can enjoy complete equality. But foreign first-generation immigrants should not beforced to acquire citizenship because automatic naturalization would seriously limit a person‘s right to make autonomous decisions; and they should not be induced to naturalize simply for the reasons ofacquiring rights not otherwise available to them. Finally it has to be added that arguing in favour of theequalization of rights by propagating the upholding of discriminatory rules for a certain group of persons isa rather perverse logic. • Argument 2: Electoral rights for foreign nationals may lead to conflicts of loyalty that can be dangerous for the political system. In addition, conflicts from the home country may be introduced in the political institutions of the host country and/or foreign nationals may be induced or forced by their home countriesto use their electoral rights in a specific way that goes against the interests of the host country.First of all, this argument does not apply to local elections because conflicts of loyalty can hardly be imagined with respect to decisions at the municipal level œ even if foreign nationals hold an office at that level. Furthermore, this argument could also be used against dual nationals œ and dual nationals even exist in countries which are anxious to allow applicants for naturalization to keep their previous nationality: dual nationality is produced on a large scale when children are born in countries with ius soli to parents who are citizens of some other country with a nationality code based on ius sanguinis. Finally, it can be argued that foreign countries have few to no means to influence their citizens to use their voting rights in a veryspecific way; and even if they had, the specific citizenship of the person to be influenced does not reallymake a difference because foreign states could also use these means to influence their former citizens. Insum it is obvious that objections of this kind are based on a rather antiquated concept of loyalty. A single and unequivocal loyalty, expressed by the fact that the person is (only) a citizen of the respective country, does seem to be justifiable, however, when it comes to the right of holding one of the central offices at the national level (member of parliament, president, minister, etc.) because persons in these offices should be expected to represent the interests of the respective country only œ and in cases of conflict also against other countries
Argument 3: Granting foreign nationals electoral rights would give them unjustified privileges that the host country’s citizens do not enjoy because the latter cannot vote in more than one election. The right to participate in elections to comparable representative bodies in more than one country is the result of a special situation international migrants find themselves in because they have, as alreadymentioned above, interests in and ties to more than one country. The right to vote in more than one countrysimply does not make sense for most citizens of a country who do not and have never held anothercitizenship. Being allowed to vote twice would only be problematic if persons were allowed to vote in one and the same election twice, which, however, is not the case in this constellation. • Argument 4: Electoral rights for foreigners at the local level are acceptable, but they should be reserved for citizens at the national level. As should have become clear from the presentation so far, I see little reasons for restricting the right to vote for foreign citizens to the local level because they are affected by political decisions at the national level inthe same way œ or even more strongly œ than by ones at the local level. As already mentioned above, however, there may be good reasons for requiring candidates for the highest offices in the state to hold itscitizenship (and maybe even only its citizenship). One final argument in favour of electoral rights for foreigners shall be mentioned here: By including the last big disenfranchised group of persons, namely foreign residents, into the electorate, the chance of winning a majorityin elections on the basis of a campaign in which persons without electoral rights are used as scapegoats isreduced: they may form a sizeable pool of voters that can tip the balance with respect to which political group gets a majority.


German citizenship applications continue to fall

A persistent fall in the number of immigrants becoming naturalized German citizens has seen politicians in Berlin reignite the debate about cultural integration and citizenship tests.

To be granted German citizenship, an immigrant must have lived in Germany legally for at least eight years. They have to prove they have an independent income, don't require social welfare or unemployment benefits, and have a good grasp of the German language.

Additional rules introduced in 2007 require applicants who have not graduated from a German school to pass a controversial "citizenship test".

The examination costs 25 euros and consists of 33 multiple choice items selected from a catalog of 310 questions about German history, culture and the political system. Would-be Germans must provide at least 17 correct answers to pass, otherwise they can try again and re-sit the examination at a later date.

The federal government says extremely low failure rates (around one percent) prove the test is a success. But critics say the authorities have got it wrong.

The left-wing Berlin state senate's commissioner for integration, Guenter Piening, says many immigrants from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds are so worried by the test that they haven't dared to apply for German citizenship.

Language barriers

The government's new language test is particularly unpopular among immigrants. Applicants can't get by on basic phrases communicating where they live and who they know. They have to be able to describe their dreams and justify their opinions.

Boehmer, a Christian Democrat, says the plunge in the number of foreigners taking up German citizenship needs to be carefully examined because a number of factors are at play.

One is a rule that came into force in 2000. It states that a child born to an immigrant parent who's been living in Germany for more than eight years is automatically granted German citizenship - so there's no need for an application.

However, critics point out that such children only remain German if they choose to give up their foreign nationality when they reach 18 years of age. They say this forced decision puts youths with immigrant backgrounds under a lot of pressure.

So far calls for Germany to lift its general ban on dual citizenship have found little support among Germany's major political parties - and there's little to suggest their position will change any time soon.

Autor: Bernd Gräßler/Sam Edmonds

Editor: Chuck Penfold