Sunday, October 21, 2012

The “Angry Arab” As’ad Abukhalil: The passport American?


The “Angry Arab” As’ad Abukhalil: The passport American? Did he lie to the immigration officer or to the millions watching Aljazeera?

 As an immigration attorney I helped a lot of people obtain American citizenship. While a green card holder has a lot of rights in the United States, the issue is an immigrant is not legally and politically secure until he becomes a US citizen.

One of the great things about America is its citizenship law- while it is relatively easy to become a US citizen it is very hard to lose the citizenship. Many countries in the world act as if they dispense their citizenship certificates from a gumball machine- they give it and take it whimsically. A person can go to bed a citizen and wake up stateless at the whim of the executive and his minions. This is not the case in the US.

                                                     A Citizen is a Citizen

America treats its naturalized citizens the same as its native born in almost all aspects with few exceptions such as eligibility to run for the office of the President of the United States. The US State department always intervenes to help American citizens who need help abroad even when they hold dual citizenship. The US government’s position is that a citizen is a citizen. This decent treatment of the naturalized is reciprocated with love and loyalty by the immigrants who know that this treatment is the exception in the world and not the rule. An immigrant becomes a citizen through the process of naturalization. One of the requirements is that a person be of good moral character. Also it requires that a person voluntarily and without reservation pledge allegiance to the US.

The Naturalization Oath reads: "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."


 This is a much more elaborate and specific than The Pledge of Allegiance that native born Americans grow up affirming: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.” To become a citizen one has to file the citizenship application, pay the fee and be interviewed. These are the oath requirements in the citizenship application: “H. Oath Requirements. . Do you understand the full Oath of Allegiance to the United States? . If the law requires it, are you willing to bear arms on behalf of the United States? . If the law requires it, are you willing to perform noncombatant services in the U.S. Armed Forces? . If the law requires it, are you willing to perform work of national importance under civilian direction? . Are you willing to take the full Oath of Allegiance to the United States?”

 This all came to mind when I watched As’ad Abukhalil’s interview with Aljazeera’s Elsy abi Assi on the program Zeyara Khassa/Private Visit. In that interview Abi Assi raised the issue of the American citizenship of Abukhalil. Abukhalil had earlier in the interview said that he was the subject of hate speech because he does not “brag” about his US citizenship. That’s fine- the law does not require you to be proud of your citizenship. But when later in the interview he was asked about his American citizenship (41:22 of the video) the following exchange occurred: *Abi Assi: But you hold the American citizenship? How do you deal with this subject? How do you introduce yourself? Do you self identify as an American? *Abukhalil: Legally I hold the US citizenship. I say to the Arab people that our tragedy is that this passport makes it easier for me to travel in the Arab world more than any Arab passport. This shows how the white man is treated by Arabs better than they treat each other.

                                                     The Lying Arab?

Without seeing the Abukhalil citizenship application I am sure that he expressed willingness to bear arms on behalf of the United States, willingness to perform noncombatant services in the U.S. armed forces and willingness to perform work of national importance under civilian direction. He did affirm all this under oath in writing and during the interview and without it he would not have become a US citizen. Abukhalil would not have obtained his citizenship if his interest in becoming a US citizen was of becoming a passport American as he affirmed to Abi Assi. The question remains: Did he lie on the citizenship application and to the immigration officer who interviewed him or to Aljazeera’s Abi Assi? *You can watch the Aljazeera interview on YouTube: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AMB4uqTdZY

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