Déjà vu all over again? Dual citizenship on FSM’s July ballot
Not for the first time, dual citizenship for citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia will be on the special election ballot again this July thanks to the 4th Constitutional Convention that began in 2020 and concluded in June 2022 due to the intervention of the pandemic.
To pass, a proposed constitutional amendment requires 75 percent of voters in at least three of the four states of the FSM.
Past proposals in 2001 and 2011 to give FSM citizens the right to carry two passports by the members of the country’s decennial ConCon failed, as did three congressional bills that went through referendums, due to this constraint.
The last attempt to gain passage was in the March 2011 national election that fell short of the required 75 percent with an average of 69.75 percent voting yes. Yap and Kosrae came the closest with 73 percent and 72 percent respectively. In both Chuuk and Pohnpei 67 percent voted yes.
Dual citizenship is a long-debated issue in FSM. As it stands now, a legal citizen of the FSM who lives in another country must register their intention to remain a citizen of FSM within three years of their 18th birthday. If they fail to comply, they automatically become a, FSM citizen. If they decide at a later date to apply for U.S. citizenship, they will forfeit their FSM citizenship if their application is approved. Dual citizenship is not an option.
By comparison, the current proposed amendment would allow dual citizenship “for a person born of parents, one or both of whom are citizens of the FSM; restore FSM citizenship to those who lost their citizenship because they failed or were unable to renounce their citizenship of a foreign country; and provide a pathway for FSM citizens who knowingly renounced their FSM citizenship to restore their FSM citizenship.”
According to witnesses who attended congressional hearings in 2008, voters were not fully aware of the intent and purpose of the proposals. A key sticking point, they noted, is the effect it may have on land ownership that is traditionally inherited through lineages. Under the current law, citizens who renounce their FSM citizenship by the age of 21 may lose their land rights. Under dual citizenship, land rights would be maintained.
Outgoing President David Panuelo called for a special education committee in September 2022 to ensure voters fully understand the eight proposed amendments that will be on the July ballot, with special emphasis on the dual citizenship proposal.
In 2010, then President Manny Mori, did the same thing with presentations in all four states. Today, with social media, Zoom and other more robust communications tools, it is anticipated that the program will gain wider reach, especially among those FSM citizens who live abroad and vote absentee.
Dual citizenship means you are a lawful, registered citizen of two countries simultaneously who must perform the duties of both. Along with fulfilling the responsibilities of citizenship, dual citizens are given the privileges and rights of both countries. To become a dual citizen of the U.S., you simply need to file for naturalization.
But the Compact of Free Association already provides FSM citizens with some of the same benefits of dual citizenship.
Following is a topline comparison.
After a long career as a senior marketing executive, Joyce McClure traded the island of Manhattan for the island Yap as a Peace Corps response volunteer in 2016. She is now a freelance writer and photographer living in Guam. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org