Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 1, 2018
An alarming news report this week disclosed the otherwise invisible spurtin the number of legal American citizens caught up in immigration enforcement on the Mexican border.
It felt like a major escalation of an already hateful immigration policy, though it turns out to be a bit more complicated
The Washington Post thoughtfully probed the rise under the Trump administration of withdrawn U.S. passports, detainment and actual deportations of American-born citizens of Latino descent. Along the Texas border, the administration has started challenging — again — the validity of midwife-signed birth certificates decades ago.
Our government argues that many who claim U.S. birth are doing so under false pretenses, that midwives illegally asserted that people born in Mexico were born on the Texas side of the border. In pursuing undocumented immigrants, the government has taken U.S. paperwork away from actual citizens and left people having to demonstrate that they were born in the United States.
The Post highlighted individuals like Juan, the former soldier, junior employee of the border patrol and state prison guard now, who was easily taken into the military, but now has had his passport withdrawn, was detained, and finally deported into Mexico unless he can come up with contemporaneous documentation that showed that his parents were Texas residents.
Let’s review: It is okay to take taxes from these people, to take them into the military, but after a lifetime here, increasingly it is legit to question those same people’s birth, and to threaten them with detainment and deportation unless they can come up with utility bills showing residency of their moms decades ago.Valid passports have been confiscated or revoked, their holders stranded stateless in Mexico, or arrested and held in detention centers and slated for deportation.
Here’s the complication: The Trump administration didn’t invent this practice; it happened under the Bush and Obama administrations as well, but the numbers dropped precipitously after a 2009 court challenge by the ACLU. Now in the last months, the numbers are way up. : In the 1990s, some Texas midwives admitted accepting bribes to falsely claim that some Mexican infants were born in the United States. These same midwives, however, also delivered thousands more babies, at least thousands, legitimately in the United States. From official records, it is impossible to tell the difference.
So, having a Latino name in South Texas and a birth certificate signed by a midwife leaves one open to prosecution under immigration laws with the burden on the individual, not the government.
Post columnist Eugene Robinson, said, “It is hard to be shocked anymore.. . , but (the news report) was jaw-dropping: In the borderlands of southern Texas, the State Department is denying passports to hundreds and perhaps thousands of men and women who have official birth certificates demonstrating they were born in the United States.
“President Trump’s bigoted hatred of Latino immigrants has been clear from the beginning. Now his administration is aggressively persecuting Latino citizens as well.”
Hmmm. Trump and birth certificates, where have we heard that one before?
What we have here are
Robinson: “The Trump administration simply doesn’t see Latinos as full-fledged Americans.”
For Americans who live along the border, a passport is a necessity to move back and forth across the border for business or family reasons. The U.S. passport has been gold. Now, suddenly, not so much for some people. Nevertheless, the Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of citizens along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown. The State Department said that it “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications,” adding that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.” In a statement, the government said, “Individuals who are unable to demonstrate that they were born in the United States are denied issuance of a passport,” the statement said. Cases identified by The Post and interviews with immigration attorneys suggest a dramatic shift in both passport issuance and immigration enforcement.
The State Department would not say how many passports it has denied to people along the border because of concerns about fraudulent birth certificates. The government has also refused to provide a list of midwives whom it considers to be suspicious.
Meanwhile,a report published by the Miami Herald profiles numerous Bank of America customers who say they have been locked out of their accounts after failing to answer questions about their citizenship required by the various U.S. government sanctions or provide documentation deemed acceptable.
When you put these events in context of separating families at the border, with raids on workplaces, with attacks on “sanctuary cities” that are twisted for partisan purposes, we must ask: What are we doing?Are we so afraid of individuals that we must turn into monsters? Is this the best we can do by our own citizens? Is there another reason for all this that is not discriminatory? I don’t think so.