State Dept. Revokes Passports, Strips Citizenship of Many Born Along U.S.-Mexico Border
Donald Trump started his presidential campaign by attacking undocumented immigrants, but by 2018 his administration was targeting almost all immigrants, documented or not. First, there was the denaturalization task force, which aims to strip citizenship from naturalized immigrants who have been charged with any crime. Then Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s most virulently anti-immigrant advisers, wrote a proposal that would make it more difficult for immigrants who have received benefits through the Affordable Care Act, or accepted other forms of public assistance, to obtain citizenship.
Now, according to a report in The Washington Post, the administration is coming for passports. “The Trump administration,” the Post writes, “is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown.”
Trump’s State Department wasn’t the first to deny passports based on these allegations; the George W. Bush and Obama administrations both did so for many people who were delivered by midwives in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Complicating the situation, however, is that the same midwives who forged the birth certificates also provided thousands of legitimate ones, and it became difficult to distinguish between the two.
The Obama administration backed down after an ACLU lawsuit. But under Trump, according to the Post, “the passport denials and revocations appear to be surging, becoming part of a broader interrogation into the citizenship of people who have lived, voted and worked in the United States for their entire lives.”
The State Department referred to previous policies in a statement, saying it “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications.” It added that it’s simply doing its job in “an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”
Juan, a man born in Texas who declined to give his last name to the Post, is in the State Department’s crosshairs. Officially, he is an American citizen: “His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas,” the Post reports. He has also served his country and worked for the government: “He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.”
Juan’s citizenship was called into question only when he applied for a passport renewal. Instead of simply giving him a new one, the State Department sent Juan a terrifying letter: “the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.”
Juan was livid. “I fought for my country,” he said.
Juan was unlucky enough to be born in the “wrong” place. The Post explains:
The government alleges that from the 1950s through the 1990s, some midwives and physicians along the Texas-Mexico border provided U.S. birth certificates to babies who were actually born in Mexico. In a series of federal court cases in the 1990s, several birth attendants admitted to providing fraudulent documents.
The State Department said in a statement that denying someone a passport doesn’t mean that they definitely will be deported, but as the Post observes, “it leaves them in a legal limbo, with one arm of the U.S. government claiming they are not an American and the prospect that immigration agents could follow up on their case.”
Some of the targeted applicants, who all have official U.S. birth certificates, “are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States.”
Juan’s appeal for a passport renewal was rejected, and he was asked to turn over his original passport and admit he was born in Mexico. He would not and is currently in deportation proceedings. He earns only $13 an hour as a prison guard, and his legal fees will amount to thousands of dollars.
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