NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 81, Number 1

April 2006

Transnational Politics and the Democratic Nation-State: Normative Challenges of Expatriate Voting and Nationality Retention of Emigrants

Ruth Rubio-Marín

In this piece, Ruth Rubio-Marín discusses how emigrant citizenship (understood as emigrants’ efforts to remain included in their national communities and the efforts by emigration states to encourage this) relates to the prevailing notion of the nationstate. She argues that emigrant citizenship challenges some of the traditional elements of the nation-state construct, such as the mutually exclusive and territorially bounded notion of political belonging, while, on the whole, reasserting the relevance of national membership. The piece then turns to the normative force of the concept of emigrant citizenship, focusing on two of the claims that are more commonly
articulated by expatriates: absentee voting and a right to retain their nationality of origin even if they naturalize in the country of residence. Rubio-Marín argues that emigrants have a right to retain their nationality of origin, and with it, a sense of national identity, their ties with the country of origin, and the option to return, even if they naturalize abroad. Yet she finds that they do not have a similar right to absentee voting. Instead, absentee voting should only be seen as an option that, under certain circumstances, sending countries may legitimately embrace. This holds true, she claims, regardless of expatriates’ contributions to the national economies through remittances or other forms of capital inflow.