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by Jennie S. Bev

A bill allowing dual citizenship for Indonesians living abroad is currently being mulled. I strongly support it for it provides ease for transnationalism to occur between nations so we can benefit from each other’s existence. As a Silicon Valley resident, I have come to observe Indonesian, Indian and Silicon Valley diasporas worldwide.

The First Congress of Indonesian Diaspora held in Los Angeles last July aimed to bridge Indonesia and the US with human capital. With 150,000 Indonesians and Americans with ties to Indonesia , both Indonesia and the US have a lot to gain from such a connection.

What is “diaspora” per se? Etymologically speaking, it is derived from the Greek words dia (across) and spreien (to sow or scatter seeds). It was first used in third century BC in a Hebrew scripture for Hellenic Jewish in Alexandria and was popularized in the 16th century with “black African diaspora” with slave trade from West Africa to the New World.

Colonially speaking, it is about dislocation from native homelands through migration, immigration and exile. Post-colonially speaking, it is transnational mobility and a hybrid between and within nations and cities.

Diaspora is often mistaken with “transnationalism”. The former is about the people, the subject of movement, while the latter is the force of the movement, which can be globalization or globalized capitalism. Transnationalism is not limited to the movement of people, but also movement of knowledge, technology and other cultural elements.

Since I live in the most innovative part of the US, the Silicon Valley, I have adopted the beauty of its “technocrat culture”. The “hacker” culture appreciates intellect over materialistic things, real net worth based on one’s “creation”, a business or an invention rather than one’s brand-name possessions, and self-education rather than schooling.

In Jakarta, I carry the so-called “Silicon Valley” diaspora and I am still very much in “shock” with how different culture in Jakarta is from Silicon Valley culture.

This mindset allows me to see the world “as is” without being blinded by spotlights and luxury brands, which are actually the works of successful marketers. The Silicon Valley “hacker mindset” sees things beyond the surface. We seek functionality and true value and one’s true net worth. Successful Silicon Valley startups are also renowned for their bootstrapping skills in which a company can survive with very little starting capital and can generate tremendous value for users.

Regarding Indonesia’s dual citizenship initiative, we can learn from countries that allow full dual citizenship, like Mexico and Canada, or partial dual citizenship, such as India.

India offers overseas citizenship (OCI) for citizens of 16 countries with Indian descent: Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the US. An OCI holder is not allowed to vote, to run for public office or have an Indian passport. However, unlike a US green card holder who is allowed to purchase land and property, an OCI holder is not.

For Indonesians in the US, having dual citizenship would mean that they do not need to choose between Indonesia and the US. And by not having to choose between the two, Indonesia could enjoy more advantages, particularly economically.

So far, many non-US citizens choose to become US citizens for legal and practical reasons.

First, when children are US-born citizens, thus if the parents are not US citizens, the parents risk being deported to their country of origin and they get separated. Second, some US jobs require US citizenship, such as jobs at high-clearance US institutions. Third, having US-based businesses and high-valued US properties require the peace of mind that owners will not be deported to their country of origin by law. Fourth, foreign-born US citizens can run for public office, except for US presidency. Even US senators can be born outside the US as long as they have been US citizen for nine years. Fifth, more opportunities are made available to US citizens than foreigners in the US.

Diasporas are beautiful and meaningful as long as we know how to make them beneficial for mankind.[]

The Jakarta Post, December 22, 2012

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