Drones and American Citizenship

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Posted by Elaine Santucci, community karma 63

Given the recent revelation that the United States Government is using drones on citizens abroad, what is the process, for lack of a better term, to revoke citizenship before authorizing the use of a drone? If there is no process, is it possible to take away a natural-born citizen's citizenship?

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Sheldon Bernard Lyke, community karma 2171

I am not sure if I understand the question entirely, but are you asking (1) whether an individual citizen who fears a drone attack can resign her citizenship?  Or are you asking (2) whether the US government can strip someone of her citizenship?  In either case, I am not sure that the answers to your questions really get us anywhere.

As for the first question, whether a person can remit her citizenship doesn't really matter for the drone strikes---because the US government has been arguing for sometime that it can perform extra-judicial killings of non-citizens abroad.  The big issue now is whether that policy can extend to citizens abroad.  Stripping oneself of citizenship won't get her more protection from a US strike.

As for the second question, the US Supreme Court has ruled that in some cases arising under the foreign affairs power an individual can be stripped of citizenship---but that someone can never be stripped of citizenship as a mean of punishment.  Again, I am not sure why this matters, unless there is ever a ruling that the US government cannot perform extra-judicial killings of citizens abroad.  And in that case perhaps the government may seek to strip people of citizenship before they kill them---but at least that would entail some form of due process.

over 9 years ago
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Elaine Santucci, community karma 63

I was asking more from a public perception standpoint. There are ways of stripping a person of his or her citizenship. If the uproar is over using drones to target American citizens abroad, why not just strip them of citizenship first? 

For example, one of the ways of revoking citizenship is if a person joins the armed forces of a foreign state currently at odds/fighting/at war with the United States. If this is so, why not broadly interpret  "foreign state" to include "terrorist organizations"? Wouldn't that "solve" the public perception issue? 

over 9 years ago
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Zachary Loney, community karma 369

Generally speaking, American citizen must have a clear intent or understanding that their actions will renounce their claims to citizenship before their rights may be taken away. The case of Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), which involved an American citizen voting in an Israeli election, solidified this concept. Because those born in the United States have a constitutional right to citizenship, any attempt to unilaterally deprive them of that right without a court proceeding would be a violation of the Due Process clause. Afroyim v. Rusk stands for the principle that Congress cannot divest someone of citizenship without a showing of intentional renunciation on behalf of the citizen.

Without the intentional (and willing) revocation of citizenship, a citizen retains their rights. The Nishikawa v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 129 (1958) case illustrates where the choice was intentional, but not willing. Nishikawa was a dual Japanese-American citizen before the outbreak of World War 2. He was conscripted into the Japanese military. Avoiding conscription would bring a penalty of 3 years imprisonment. The court held that the government failed to prove that Nishikawa willingly revoked his citizenship, even if the service was intentional. This point is particularly salient when considering the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen who was captured fighting in Afghanistan and was eventually released to Saudi Arabia after he renounced his citizenship.

I do not believe that this is a viable solution for addressing the issue of drone strikes on American citizens in these war zones. First, the divesture of rights would violate the Due Process clause by unilaterally stripping constitutional rights without a court proceeding. Second, even in situations with a court proceeding, the citizen could argue that they did not intend to renounce their citizenship, possibly claiming that their actions were done with the knowledge that they might face the legal consequences under U.S. law.

about 9 years ago
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