by Duncan Frissell
Last September's attack on the United States vastly increased debate on identification, citizenship, and immigration. For your education and amusement, here are some truly strange facts about these topics.
Unless otherwise mentioned, these statements apply to US law.
1) It is legal (in Common Law countries) to call yourself any name you want, spell that name any way you want, and pronounce that name any way you want as long as you have no intent to defraud.
2) World War II was won by US Army Generals and Navy Admirals who commanded armies, air forces, and fleets and possessed and used all manner of weapons up to and including nuclear bombs -- all without ever having proved their identities to the US government.
3) The United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled that it is legal for Americans to communicate and congregate anonymously and to refuse to identify themselves to government officials (in most circumstances).
4) It is legal to operate a motor vehicle in the US without a license from any government agency (in some circumstances).
5) It is legal to operate a motor vehicle in the US without a license from any US state (in all circumstances -- unless your driving privileges have been specifically suspended).
6) It is legal to issue your own employment ID since one generally has a right in the US to form a business and employ oneself and others.
7) It is legal to issue your own student ID since one has an even broader right in the US to form a school and enroll any students you care to.
8) One is not required to apply for a Social Security Number.
9) One can obtain a US passport with no more than the affidavit of relative, a hospital bill, a baptismal certificate, or an entry in a family bible.
10) Since January 1988, you have been required to enter your Social Security number on a US passport application but the State Department can't refuse to issue you a passport if you don't do so. The IRS can fine you $500 ($50/year for a 10-year passport) for your refusal, but they have never done do.
11) Central European local governments (Communes or Villages) keep so-called Family Books which list all local families and track their births, marriages, and deaths over many years even if they leave the local community.
12) In most European countries, residents are required to register their addresses with the police or local government when they move into a community.
13) You can renounce your US citizenship but if you are native born the US government can't make you stateless by revoking it. If you are naturalized, your citizenship can only be revoked for fraud in the application.
14) In the 1950s, the Supreme Court ruled (in essence) that revocation of citizenship would violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment (though executing you would not).
15) Non-citizens are not only permitted to serve in the US armed forces, they are required to register for conscription and serve if drafted.
16) Four million US citizens do not reside in the US.
17) More than 500 million people attempt to enter the US annually (1.3 million a day). Of that number, some 700,000 are refused entry by the INS.
18) The machine-readable lines on your passport (at the bottom of the page that has your picture on it) include space for a National ID number.
19) In the US, you have the right to determine your residence (unless you are incarcerated). Residence is usually defined as the same as the legal concept "domicile". Domicile is established by a person having actual physical presence in a place combined with intent to make it his home.
20) The IRS publishes a quarterly list in the Federal Register of Americans who have renounced their citizenship. Since the end of 1996 (when the listing began) 3656 Americans have renounced their citizenship.
21) It is not a crime to be an illegal alien in the US. It is a civil matter. It is a crime to use fraudulent documents to gain entry. It is a minor offense to evade inspection when crossing the border. But if you overstay your visa, it is not a crime. You can, of course, be arrested and deported but the mere status of being illegally present in the US does not constitute a crime.
1-There are no laws, in Common Law jurisdictions, that define what names are legal or illegal and it is common to use pen names and nicknames and aliases.
2-Most US local governments didn't issue birth certificates until after 1900. Most general officers in WWII were born before birth certificates were issued and the military did not use them for enlistment.
3-NAACP v. ALABAMA, 357 U.S. 449 (1958) - Organization can't be forced to disclose membership lists.
BATES v. LITTLE ROCK, 361 U.S. 516 (1960) - Ditto
McINTYRE v. OHIO ELECTIONS COMM'N, 514 U.S. 334 (1995) - Pamphleteer can distribute pamphlets anonymously.
BROWN v. TEXAS, 443 U.S. 47 (1979) - Police cannot question a person about his identity without reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.
4-On private land, for example.
5-One can operate a motor vehicle on the public streets and roads of the US with a license from any nation. A state can withdraw your right to drive within it but has to do so explicitly.
6-This should be obvious.
7-This should be even more obvious.
8-Read the Paperwork Reduction Act Notice on the SS-5 Form - http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.
9-Read "Present Proof of US Citizenship" - Here: http://travel.state.gov/passport_obtain.html.
15-This should be general knowledge. Sad if it isn't.
16-At least that many. Should be general knowledge.
19-See, for example: http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/resident.htm.
20-Read my extensive website on the topic at: http://www.frissell.com/taxpat/taxpats.html.
21-I found a pretty good piece of evidence that the mere status of being unlawfully present in the US does not constitute a crime. First offense visa overstays, for example. Perhaps you are familiar with the great work of the Transaction Records Clearinghouse at Syracuse. Well their TracINS site has a listing of the federal criminal charges brought by the INS in 1998 and before. If you go down the list, you note the absence of a pure status offense for illegal immigration. http://trac.syr.edu/tracins/findings/98/criminal/district/us/uslaw98.html. See also my later post giving examples of categories of illegal aliens who entered the country legally. Needless to say, illegal immigrants can be arrested and deported but, as far as I can determine, are not usually guilty of a pure crime.