Since March of this year, when New Democracy party leader Mr. Mitsotakis submitted to the Greek Parliament a law proposal regarding the right to vote of the many millions of Greeks of the Diaspora, a heated debate has been brewing in both Greece and in the Diaspora communities.
As part of this debate, this author has proposed several ideas, one of which has to do with the numerous benefits of including second, third and fourth generation Greeks of the Diaspora in voting lists – lists which would be presumably formed by the consular authorities of Greece in the countries and regions where Diaspora communities live.
Several uninformed – if not politically motivated – voices in our community have recently insisted that Greek-Americans who participate in Greek elections risk losing their U.S. citizenship. There is nothing further from the truth.
The truth is that before 1967, there was such a possibility under certain circumstances. In that year, the U.S. Supreme Court, in deciding the landmark case Afroyim v.Rusk, threw out its own legal precedent (Perez v. Brownell 1958) and established that the right to citizenship is protected by the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and cannot be lost without the consent of the individual citizen.
Here is the exact passage from the prevailing opinion of the Supreme Court – a real piece of history:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States … are citizens of the United States….” (expl. this is the clause of citizenship of the 14th Amendment). There is no indication in these words of a fleeting citizenship, good at the moment it is acquired but subject to destruction by the Government at any time. Rather the Amendment can most reasonably be read as defining a citizenship which a citizen keeps unless he voluntarily relinquishes it. Once acquired, this Fourteenth Amendment citizenship was not to be shifted, canceled, or diluted at the will of the Federal Government, the States, or any other governmental unit.
In the decades that followed this landmark decision, U.S. government practices reinforced it in many ways, so that today it is possible for U.S. citizens with dual citizenship not only to vote and get elected but also to hold public office in a foreign country without the risk of losing their U.S. citizenship. There may some exceptions to this rule, but according to the State Department, these will be examined on an individual case-by-case basis.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Afroyim in the above decision of the Supreme Court was an ethnically Jewish man, born in Poland and former member of the Polish Communist Party, before becoming a naturalized American citizen. After his naturalization he voted in the 1951 elections in Israel… Can we now see how many “thorny” human/political rights issues this Supreme Court decision has solved?
I am finally hoping that this short essay will allow us to re-evaluate the credibility of those spreading these falsehoods in our community, as well as their political motivations…
Nick Stamatakis, July 8 2016