Michele Bachmann's Swiss Citizenship Sparks Debate Over Dual Citizenship for Politicians

Author’s Note: This article as originally published contained references to current and former U.S. government officials which identified them as holding dual U.S.- Israeli citizenship. The sources used have since been determined to be unreliable. The article below has been edited and all such references removed.

A few months ago, when Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced that her request for Swiss citizenship had been approved, (a request she withdrew two days later,) I wrote an article questioning the propriety of her actions. Comments I received brought to light what I believe to be a very disturbing question: Do any current or have any former federal lawmakers and key policy decision makers hold dual citizenship?

The only restriction in the Constitution concerning nationality is the requirement for the president to be a natural born citizen. There is no mention of dual citizenship. It is not illegal for lawmakers, or key policy decision makers to be citizens of another country in addition to the United States. I believe this is wrong. 

As a dual citizen, a person is required to follow the laws of both countries. I do not take issue with this for everyday citizens. However, when an elected official or civil servant takes the oath of office, he or she swears to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same”. In my mind, this creates a conflict of interest. Regardless of how strongly a person argues their total commitment to this oath, I cannot accept that there may not come a time when the other country’s priorities or interests will influence their decision. After all, accepting citizenship is normally done based on a strong commitment to that country. It is not done on a whim. It is a serious decision that hopefully is done with much forethought. 

If any decision makers hold or have held dual citizenship, how could that impact foreign policy decisions? Would our support or relations with a particular country be different?  While I don’t know the answers, I believe these are honest questions.   

As I’ve stated, I do not have issue with dual citizenship per se. However, if a person who holds dual citizenship desires to be in a decision-making position in government, whether elected or appointed, they should be required to surrender the second citizenship. If the country does not allow for that, all attempts to surrender the citizenship along with denial from the involved country must be documented. While the decision maker holding dual citizenship may proclaim their loyalty to the U.S.,I believe we cannot take the chance that a conflict may arise and that the needs of the U.S. may come in second.

NOTE: This article is commentary, my personal opinion.