David Hemler fled the US Air Force whilst stationed in Germany during the 1980s and ended up living in Sweden under the false identity of a Swiss immigrant born in Zurich. He only revealed himself last month after deciding to make contact with his US-based family who hadn’t heard from him since that time. He has since become a Swedish citizen and works for the Swedish government and has also received legal assurances that he should’t be deported.
Too bad you don’t automatically lose US citizenship when you desert as a serviceperson, though I imagine that such a bill has probably been floated from time to time. Could he, or anyone else in this situation, be arrested if he tried to go into the US Embassy to renounce/relinquish citizenship? I say this, because I imagine that he has absolutely no idea of all the paperwork and failure-to-file penalties that the IRS is now going to expect from him nor of the looming FATCA deadline. I’d say he picked a pretty bad time to publicly reveal to his banks that he wasn’t born in Zurich as well…
“Too bad you don’t automatically lose US citizenship when you desert as a serviceperson, though I imagine that such a bill has probably been floated from time to time” — actually, the Enrollment Act of 1865 (13 Stat. 490) had this exact provision (though of course it only applied to the Army and the Navy, there being no Air Force back then):
There was another vaguely-similar case about a year ago, though the guy wasn’t military: George Wright, an ex-Black Panther who broke out of prison in the U.S. in the 70s, lived in Guinea Bissau for more than a decade, and then emigrated to Portugal with a Guinea-Bissau passport that said he was born in Guinea-Bissau. He got found out four decades later from his fingerprints, but Portugal said they won’t extradite him either.
Here are 2 different opinions from 2 different Americans that deserted and went to North Korea:
Also, to be clear to everyone: the United States has absolutely no power to arrest you inside one of their embassies. The embassy is not actually U.S. territory; it’s still Swedish (or Canadian, Chinese, etc.) territory where host country law applies. The only special thing is that Sweden gave up some rights to enforce Swedish laws over that territory under the Vienna Convention, but that does not mean U.S. laws apply. You should not be afraid of renouncing simply because of the need to go to an embassy (and even if you are still afraid, you can always go to a consulate, which has even fewer immunities than an embassy).
(Of course, the Swedish police could not enter the building even if the embassy staff decided to knock you over the head and hold you prisoner, but if the embassy staff tried to “extraordinarily render” you out of the building then Sweden could rescue you once you stepped outside. Though I’m not sure what would happen if you were in a box labelled “diplomatic luggage”. Since none of us reading this website is Julian Assange, hopefully we don’t have to worry about this level of detail.)
Good blog post on the topic, which points out some funny examples like the Polish embassy in DC enforcing the U.S. drinking age of 21 at one of their receptions.
This is a very interesting story. Thanks for posting it.
However, he has nothing to worry about since he has a great case for having relinquished his US citizen. Not only has he become Swedish but he is also working for the government there. Finally, no argument that he wished to retain his US citizenship would be believable. Finally, he also has his pre-2004 get out of jail free card, when it comes to 8854 and five years filing.
Finally, I guess that there is no statute of limitations for having deserted the military. To have put him on a most wanted list seems extreme. But then that is what I expect from the extremists who run the US government.
The documentary – Crossing the Line (2006). Very very very good. It’s on Youtube. In an earlier comment, I posted a link to what the defector Jenkins told Japanese reporters. The docmentary is about the guy (Dresnok) in the other link that doesn’t want to ever return to the US. It was a little strange seeing this big American speaking Korean.
Personally, I don’t know if I could live in a place where the State provides everything. But it appears as though he got used to it and seems happy.
There are cases still of Vietnam-era deserters (as distinct from draft evaders) being arrested at the border: http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=18288a09-8715-4345-89df-4cac59fb4ec9&sponsor=
@Don Great post.
@Eric, I agree with your first post where you suggest that the guy lost US citizenship when he went AWOL. Actually, it is true not only because of the regulations you cite that may have been in effect for military personnel back when, but also because his actions qualify for relinquishment in general under the INA. If he now has Swedish citizenship and works for the Swedish government: so he has performed at least 3 pontentially relinquishing acts if he writes up a statement that he intended by these acts to relinquish 1. Going AWOL, 2. Becoming Swedish, 3. Working for the Swedish government (this would be “iffy”… it would depend upon whether his responsibilities include policy and decision making). If he says so in writing, he loses US citizenship retroactively on the dates those acts were irrevokably comitted, and by analogy, this would mean that the first one would be determinant for the date of relinquishment.
I personally would not feel safe going into a “Compound Embassy” (which the Ecuadorian one in London is not, by the way) where one could stuff me into a diplomatic vehicle and extraordinarily-rendate and “disappear” my person away. If the host-country police cannot escort and stay with you into and out of the embassy, no telling what embassy staff (or more likely their spook collegues) could try to do while having you on their “sovereign territory”. Embassies are on sovereign territory and main consulates are usually located inside Embassies. Regional consultates are not neccesarily sovereign territory, but in my observations such regional consulates (often referred to as consular agencies) do not provide 100% full consular services. I have found that in Switzerland the consular agencies can do very little except notarize documents, and accept applications, certify copies against originals you show them to motivate your applications, and forward the copies and applications to Bern.