Arthur John Keefe (July 1976), “How to Expatriate Yourself on Ten Easy Grounds”, 62 American Bar Association Journal 925:
Most of you have never had a client step into your office seeking guidance on renouncing his United States citizenship. It has happened to me twice. I’m not suggesting that you bone up on the subject, although from 1945 to 1969 there were more than ninety-five thousand administrative determinations of voluntary abandonment of United States citizenship.
He cites Jack Wasserman, “The Voluntary Abandonment of U.S. Citizenship”, 17 South Texas Law Journal 31. Wasserman, a New York attorney and former member of the Board of Immigration Appeals, wrote:
During the years 1945–1969, administrative determinations of voluntary abandonment of American citizenship were made in more than 95,000 cases. Over 40,000 Americans were considered expatriates by reason of voting in foreign elections — a provision ruled unconstitutional in Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967).
Homelanders often assume that ex-Americans ruled to have lost their citizenship in this manner were all like Afroyim or Terrazas: angry enough about the deprivation of something they saw as their birthright that they would pursue a case all the way to the Supreme Court. No one stops to ask how many of them were more like the Vietnam War-era emigrants to Canada informed by U.S. consulates that they would lose U.S. citizenship after naturalising as Canadians or taking up Canadian government employment: relieved, excited, or simply indifferent that their legal connection to a country they no longer considered their own would be dissolved.
Over on Wikipedia I’ve written articles about some of the more colourful figures who gave up U.S. citizenship in those years: stateless anti-war activist Henry Martyn Noel, Paris-based jazz singer Lobo Nocho, and naturalised Ghanaian dentist Robert Lee, for starters.
That so many have given up their American nationality is surprising to those of us who prize our American citizenship as our most cherished heritage. It may well serve to call attention to the scope and breadth of our expatriation laws which neither lawyers nor laymen fully understand.
And basically nothing has changed today: laymen claim that most presidential candidates secretly renounced U.S. citizenship and that you can renounce your citizenship to evade taxes and get out of traffic tickets, while incompetent or malicious immigration lawyers spread tall tales about how you’ll be banned from ever setting foot on U.S. soil after renouncing citizenship and express disbelief that anyone in the world wouldn’t want a U.S. passport.
These days, FBI statistics confirm that the number of people giving up citizenship is even higher than it was in the 1950s and 1960s — and unlike then, all of those people are marching down to the consulate to fill out the necessary paperwork with full understanding of the consequences involved, rather than accidentally muddling into their loss of U.S. citizenship and being informed after the fact of a unilateral State Department administrative determination to that end.
I’d be curious to know how the State Department could become aware of 40,000 Americans voting in foreign elections with enough certainty to be able to deprive them of citizenship. (Actually, how did anybody find out that Afroyim voted in the 1951 Israeli election? It doesn’t seem to be explained in the decision.)
@A broken man on a Halifax pier.
CIA – they were everywhere in those days.
I still have had no success in getting the official data on numbers of CLNs issued monthly, quarterly, or annually by the State Department’s division of Consular Services. CLNs are the only official records of loss of US citizenship. They can’t be difficult to count, since they all have to go through the same office in Washington. So from the secrecy with which the numbers seem to be kept, I assume that they would be an embarrassment to US mythology if published. Has anyone else been able to get the numbers? Is “national security” construed so broadly that it would justify keeping those numbers secret??
@A broken man on a Halifax pier: probably it varied by country; in some places they might have had no way at all to find out besides asking, but in Israel it seems to have been pretty simple:
James M. Long, Associated Press. “Americans Who Served In Israeli Army Can Return, Except Those Who Voted”. The Meriden Daily Journal, 18 May 1949, p. 16.
Have you tried using the FOIA process? I would think it should work.
@nofatcat, I’m no longer a US citizen, and I don’t know if I’m eligible to ask for information under FOIA. I have put in a request at Data.gov:
but so far there has been no official response. I can look into making an application under FOIA. Thanks for the suggestion.
Thanks for your efforts in trying to obtain this information, @AnonAnon, good luck!
Regarding trying to get official counts of numbers of CLNs issued:
From what I have seen in a quick look at Freedom of Information Act requests, the State Department is swamped with requests, and the average time to satisfy them is very long. Lots of information about CLNs is already on-line, just not the numbers of them that are being and have been issued.
Now I think it’s likely that they’re not intentionally keeping the numbers secret. Probably it’s just that no one thought the numbers were interesting or significant enough to be worth someone’s time to post them on-line. (We must remember that Consular Services is now swamped with creating new CLNs, presumably leaving them less time for counting them and posting the results.) So I expect that my request through Data.gov will ultimately result in the counts being made available, though whether any of us will live long enough to see them is an open question. 🙂