Citizenship, identity, mourning loss of identity and moving on …

The above tweet references an article published on August 25, 2013 at the New York Times. The article is popular and as of now has generated almost 600 comments. It’s a very interesting article because it dispels the myth that all Green Card holders want U.S. citizenship. The article highlights the fact that there are many Green Card holders who choose NOT to become U.S. citizens either because:

– they are indifferent to U.S. citizenship and don’t have a compelling reason to get it;

– they specifically do NOT want U.S. citizenship.

The article focused largely on the connection between citizenship and identity. Interestingly there is no mention of the FBAR fundraiser or other injustices to which immigrants have been subjected. It is full of interesting and instructive comments.

Excerpts that are relevant to the link between citizenship and identity include:

“I would feel that if I get the American citizenship, I would feel a little less Italian,” he explained. “I really don’t feel American.”

and

“Ultimately we’re European,” explained Mr. McLeod, an employment recruiter who lives with his family in Rhode Island. “If you were an American going to Europe and you weren’t an economic refugee or a political refugee, why would you suddenly say, ‘I’m going to become a Frenchman’?”

The obvious connection between citizenship and identity got me thinking about the plight of Americans abroad. Readers of this blog know how strongly many Americans abroad have been affected by the Obama/IRS assault on them. The assault is not abating. Many wait in terror of FATCA and hope that their retirement and pension accounts will not be confiscated under the guise of PFIC taxation.

Americans abroad are being forced to renounce their citizenship. I have argued that that the 14th amendment prohibits the forcible destruction of citizenship. Many of those forced to renounce their citizenship openly “mourn” the loss of their citizenship. For them it is a loss of part of their identity. After all, citizenship is part of who we are. But in the case of Americans abroad, the loss of identity is arguably deeper.

The loss of identity operates on two levels:

First, the loss of membership in the country of their birth, the country of their families, the country of their childhood memories. Imagine having to reinvent your sense of who you are, where you came from, and (in some cases) where you are going. How are people to move on?

… and someone needs to write a book on the “human” side of this, the collateral damage, especially for families like yours, Animal. And yours, monalisa.

If only others really, really understood, we could (or I could) leave the anger behind and live my remaining years without the nagging worry in the back of my mind that my son’s situation (and me as the trustee of his finances) will be “caught” / that I am / we are criminals.

I don’t have the worry of having to visit aging, ailing parents across the line. Mine are both gone — and in many ways (as awful as that sounds), I am glad for that fact. I hate the burden on my one sister who understands all this by my unrelenting discussion to her of me, her Canadian sister, and family’s US citizenship-based taxation issues. It is a maze and we are blindfolded and we don’t have a step-by-step best procedure that will work.

PS — I am one who would be most hesitant to again cross the US border with my Canadian passport and CLN, especially if my son were travelling with me. That he would be safer to cross the US border with his Canadian passport that shows his Canadian birthplace with someone else rather than with his mother who has a Canadian passport with a US birthplace makes me sick to my stomach. But that’s my perception — I would not feel safe in doing that with him and some nice border guard asking if I was his mother, then putting two and two together.

I’m so glad both of you — and I wish so many others — were tuned in to Isaac Brock. And, I’m so glad it’s here for me and my unresolvable anger.

My whole life has changed because of this. I’ve felt immense grief that the only way to deal with and move on is to renounce. I always assumed if you were born some place you were entitled to that citizenship without any other need of proof. As long as you didn’t commit treason or some serious crime you were a citizen. I had never, once heard of an FBAR! I called the IRS many times over the years to make sure I still was within their rules and nobody every mentioned such a thing. Nobody mentioned when after 9/11 we were required to get a U.S. passport either. Some have said that it’s written on page 4 of the passport. Well, my vision is VERY bad even with glasses and I never even attempted to read those pages. I assumed if it was anything important I would have been told about it and barely glanced at the tiny,tiny print on those pages. Couldn’t someone have informed us when we landed here? In fact up until I had to get a U.S. passport I wasn’t too sure I was even a citizen there anymore sometimes since the person I spoke with when I landed at Buffalo insisted over and over that “You may lose your U.S. citizenship over this” So when I went for that passport in the back of my mind I was worried they might not give me one. When they did I mentioned the fact I’d been told I might lose my citizenship and the person there did say “No, you were misinformed.” I came here in 1980 so maybe the rules were different or something back then but, I only landed and had not taken citizenship.

Second, the loss of their cherished belief that American was a just nation, a free nation, a democratic nation. America has demonstrated that is is the opposite. Americans abroad live with the pain of betrayal. Imagine spending years defending the United States against anti-Americanism, only to learn that the critics were right.

As some here have said it’s not the America we grew up in for those of us that did grow up there. Or maybe it is and we’re just now seeing how they operate with those that don’t live there. At any rate the feeling of betrayal and back stabbing runs deep. Like many of you I have spent decades here feeling I had to defend the U.S. at times and stand up for Americans because I felt many times they were all negatively portrayed and not all Americans are bad people. I had to deal with this daily since my mother in law was staunchly anti American. Coming to a new country and having to deal with her hurtful remarks was hard but, I DID win her over. Her and most people who got to know me well. I feel the U.S. is losing something they cannot get back. They can never make us back into good will ambassadors ever again. There was little justification for us to do that in many cases to begin with and now there will be none.

The U.S. has shown no inclination whatsoever to stop it’s attack on its citizens abroad. For many the experience is captured in the following comment at the Isaac Brock Society.

@ That Is Me,

I also got high blood pressure too, for the first time in my life, after I learnt about this “US mess” in August 2011. (It actually went back down to 118 when I checked it about two weeks after I made my CLN application at Toronto in May 2012). But between Aug 2011-Feb 2012, with my blood pressure spiking, I lost 30 pounds in six months. Which seemed kind of odd as I’d heard high blood pressure had a connection to overweight, and I was downright skinny having lost 30 pounds. I had insomnia, too, and depression for the first time in my life. I’d always rolled with the punches, but I’d never met anything like this.

18 months ago, on another thread, I posted,

“…. The worst thing that ever happened to me before this [being an alleged US person in 2011] was a fire 30 years ago. When this US mess started, I felt that it was “fifty or a hundred times worse” than the fire. As it drags on, I now feel that being trapped in a burning building was “a picnic in the park” compared to this US mess. And another thing, the US gov knows there’s a problem and they could help straighten out this mess, unlike the arsonist who was insane. I actually bore the arsonist no ill will, which turned out to be the best way to get on with my life. I would like to move on from this crisis the same way, but the US isn’t making it easy. ….”

At the time I wrote that post in February 2012, although I had not posted about it I had been to been to my local US consulate, which tried to convince me I could not have possibly ended my US citizenship in 1979. Whilst I remained quiet, rather like a little mouse, I did not give in (it was too important – I can’t exactly re-live 33 years of my life). But then after failing to convince me of this for about 20 minutes, suddenly, to my surprise, about-face, I was told maybe it was possible I had ceased to be a US citizen in 1979 and I could come back 7 months later for 2 to 3 hours of intensive questioning for them determine if I had. The person who interviewed me in Jan 2012 was quite interested in taxes. There was no Consulate Report Directory then – this sure made me realise the need for one – I’d been collecting the few expatriation stories I could find on the internet simply to prepare efficiently for my meeting (not expecting trouble). But because of these few stories, I knew that harassment was not proper procedure for sure, and it also seemed pretty clear that Dept of State was not the least bit interested in taxes.

Anyway, typical tax dodger, I was making minimum wage when I relinquished my US citizenship in 1979 and I made under $20,000 in 2011. I have no family in the US because I sponsored them into Canada years ago. It was clear from my 4079 and affidavit that I had had no connection of any sort whatsoever to the US for most of my life. That consulate tried so hard to hang on to me, it was sick. It made the US look pretty sick, too.

I was a little mouse at that consulate, but I knew I needed a CLN (because reality is reality, these 33 years had happened, I could not rewrite them). And this 2 to 3 hour interrogation, which is what intensive questioning is, that they wanted me to come back for, I knew was not proper because of those few accounts I’d read about expatriation meetings – clearly that was not something anyone was required to put up with and this little mouse wasn’t going to. I just went home — looking, my husband said, 20 years older than when I’d entered the consulate — and I typed out three pages of everything I could remember of my meeting, complete with verbatim quotes whilst they were fresh in my mind. Of course, had I known this consulate had an attitude problem, I never would have gone there. It was only after my bizarre experience that I asked around town and found out that their odd procedures and hostile attitude towards former or soon-to-be-former Americans, was apparently standard operating procedure there.

It took me a couple of months to figure out what to do. I went to Toronto in May 2012.
The personnel at Toronto Consulate were like the personnel at the US consulate I’d visited in 1972. I walked out of Toronto Consulate feeling good about the United States. As far as I’m concerned, if I could feel that way after living through 8 months of hell, people at the Toronto Consulate should get a medal. I actually said that to someone fairly high up in the State Dept – State Dept, btw, is absolutely not trying to keep people in US citizenship against their will and consulate number 1 has cleaned up its act.

But overall, the loss of respect I have for that country … not just what happened to me at consulate number 1, which appears to have gone on for at least 1 and 1/2 years — but this whole crass equating citizenship with money (which I sure never learnt in a US school) and demonising people who have chosen to move and commit themself to another country (ironically how the US itself was built) and government officials knowing they’re destroying people and families, but preferring to do that because they can gain political points by so doing with a very gullible and inward-focused electorate (in the 60s and 70s, there was a healthy scepticism in the US, something which Canada and, to my knowledge, most democratic countries had then and still do)… argh .. the loss of respect I have for the US since 2011, I really don’t have words.

Well, some words did come to me the day I got my CLN in the mail in Nov 2012. I posted,

…. Funny thing, back when I actually relinquished my citizenship in 1979, leading up to it my thinking basically was, “You have two good countries. Choose one.” The day I actually became a Canadian and relinquished 34 years ago was not emotional for me, it was a logical progression of my life. I was neither happy nor sad to lose my US citizenship. But times have changed, specifically the US’ attitude has changed – and so getting that CLN was emotional and joyful! If was a sense of relief that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams when I chose between “two good countries” many years ago. ….

Back in the 70s, in my early 20s, I just felt that I wanted to have 100% participation and commitment in one country, ironically a concept I picked up growing up in the US. I did, and do, believe that is how the US became the strong country it was in the 20th century.

And back in the 70s, knowing that so many people in the world are stuck in pretty bad countries, I actually felt privileged that I got to choose between two really good ones. A few years later I began working in refugee law and that just confirmed it. Prior to 2011, I had no idea the US had any problem with people choosing to leave it. I realise now that of course a confident country doesn`t, and the country south of here today is a scared and flailing one.

Myself and my family suffered severe financial, physical and emotional health problems since August 2011 because I was born in the USA. There is only one country in the world that has ever hurt me and unbelievably it is the USA. Not the USA I grew up in or left, both physically and legally, before most Americans alive today were born.

Ironically in trying to defend myself against this New US, I ended up helping to start Brock and now spend more time focused on the US politics in one week than I did in the past forty years. Which feels odd because though I’ve been mega-active in Canadian politics for 34 years, I’d only been a vacationer in the US. Then came 2011. Whilst I have had, legally and morally, no commitment or allegiance to the US for most of my life, I did think the US was a pretty good country, second best in the world, and felt fondly toward it. But then it turned on me. And why? Because I was born there.

You can tell a country by the company it keeps. Only the United States and Eritrea stalk its citizens around the world. But, Eritrea demands only 2 percent. Therefore to compare Ertitrea to the United States (which wants far more) is an insult to Eritrea.

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2 thoughts on “Citizenship, identity, mourning loss of identity and moving on …

  1. Phil Hogan, CA, CPA

    Very interesting article and I must say that I’m surprised at how many are choosing not to naturalize.

    It’s also interesting to see how passionate people can be on the subject…almost at 600 comments in 2 days.

    Reply
    1. renounceuscitizenship Post author

      Phil, thanks for your comment. The number who do NOT naturalize certainly underscores how important citizenship is in shaping how people “view themselves”.

      Of course, on a practical level, U.S. citizenship is now one of the most undesirable and toxic citizenships to have. Truth is that U.S. laws have handicapped U.S. citizens internationally to the point where there is an “IRS discount” associated with being a U.S. person. See an earlier post I wrote on this topic:

      https://renounceuscitizenship.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/grover-norquist-argues-for-territorial-taxation-and-explains-the-irs-discount-associated-with-u-s-entities-or-persons/

      Now, I realize that a Green Card holder is also a U.S. person but, it is easier to shed that status.

      What is also interesting is the notion that all U.S. immigrants want to be legal. I doubt this is true. Once that Green Card is issued the “ball and chain” of U.S. personhood is around the person. For many, it is simply more advantageous to live in the USA “under the radar.”

      Quite possibly not worth it to be “legal”. Similar to the reality of tax compliance of U.S. citizens abroad:

      Those who have tried to be tax compliant have suffered far more than those who have not. As one of many examples, those people who were suckered into OVDI are certainly regretting it now.

      Bottom Line: When it comes to the U.S., compliance with the law is so onerous, that it has reached that point where it may not be worth it.

      Reply

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