Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Weird Anachronisms

David Adesnik at Oxblog discusses this New York Times editorial, which argues that the US constitution should be amended to allow immigrants to stand for president. (At present the position is restricted to "natural born Americans"). David argues that now might be a good time to go for this, as there are people in both parties who could gain from this.

I agree with both David and the Times that such an amendment is a good idea, as the status quo makes naturalised citizens to be second class citizens in an important way. However, I would merely like to point out that there are weirder anachronisms in the world. Citizens of Commonwealth countries living in Britain have the same political rights as citizens of the United Kingdom. This means that I get the vote here, although I am not a citizen. It also means I may stand for parliament. If elected to the House of Commons, I can then become Prime Minister, even though I am not a British citizen.

The reverse is definitely not the case in Australia. To stand for parliament there I may not be "under allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power". When the constitution was enacted in 1901, Britain definitely was not a "foreign power", but in 1999 the High Court of Australia ruled that at some point between 1901 and then Britain had become one, and that people who held dual British/Australian citizenship were no longer eligible to stand for parliament. The court ruled that MPs in Australia must have Australian citizenship and no other. People with dual citizenship are required to relinquish (or at least take all reasonable steps to relinquish) the foreign citizenship before standing for parliament. This has meant that parliamentary candidates must be very careful, because in a country of immigrants like Australia, many people with foreign parents and grandparents have foreign citizenship without realising it.

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