Born in the USA—but can you prove it?


The Washington Post uncovered the Trump administration’s latest attack on U.S. citizenship, this time targeting Texans with Latino ancestry:

His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. 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.

“But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.”

How do you prove you were born in the United States? By your birth certificate, of course—but now the Trump administration says that’s not good enough. They want to deny citizenship to thousands of people of Hispanic descent who were born near the Texas border between 1950 and 1990.

The story starts back in the Bush administration, when some midwives who delivered babies in southern Texas during that time frame admitted that they had sometimes certified a birth as happening in Texas when, in fact, the baby was born across the border in Mexico. They made these false reports in some births among many thousands. There is no way to determine which births were wrongly certified. So, instead of allowing the Texas-issued birth certificate to stand as proof of citizenship, the Bush administration said people had to find another way to prove they were, in fact, born in the United States.

Think about that: If the government told you that you could not use your birth certificate or the testimony of your midwife or doctor or mother, then how would you go about proving where you were born?

Think about this, too: if someone was actually born in Mexico but had a U.S. birth certificate, grew up in the United States, worked and lived and raised a family in the United States, and believed they were a U.S. citizen for 30 or 40 or 50 years, why should the government now try to deport them? Why not, instead, say that they have earned citizenship? Why not acknowledge that a man who has served in the U.S. Army, worked for the Border Patrol and the state of Texas, is an asset and not a threat to the United States?

Back in the Bush administration, those whose citizenship was challenged sued the government. The ACLU and other organizations helped. Here’s how the ACLU described the lawsuit and the settlement approved by the courts in 2009:

Although midwifery has been a common practice for more than a century – particularly in rural and other traditionally underserved communities – the lawsuit charged that DOS was violating the due process and equal protection rights of virtually all midwife-delivered U.S. citizens living in the southern border region by forcing them to provide an excessive number of documents normally not required to prove their citizenship. Then, even after the applicants supplied further proof of their citizenship, DOS responded by summarily closing their applications without explanation….

“DOS has also agreed to restrictions on a list it maintains of suspect midwives and other birth attendants, which it purported to use to justify its discriminatory policies. Importantly, DOS will not deny a passport application simply because the applicant’s birth attendant or midwife is on the list. Furthermore, DOS will conduct regular reviews of the list to ensure that no one is included unless DOS has a reasonable, lawful basis to do so. These measures will help ensure that DOS does force passport applicants to take unnecessary measures to prove their citizenship and does not arbitrarily deny passports merely because the individual was born to a suspect midwife. ”

Now the Trump administration is ignoring that court-approved settlement. This is racism. The Trump administration is trying to revoke someone’s citizenship 35 or 40 or 60 years after they were born—just because they have brown skin and were born near the border in Texas. They are denying passports and passport renewals, and confiscating passports of people returning from visits to Mexico. Democrats in Congress are calling for hearings:

“Texas congressmen said the government’s policy, reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, is part of a systemic anti-Hispanic bias that has guided the administration’s immigration policy, and suggested they would propose legislation to address the policy.

“This represents an unacceptable targeting of people based on their ethnic heritage. It violates the Constitution. It should be investigated by Congress in both chambers, and we should take action to stop it as soon as possible through legislation if necessary,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.).”

This is just one of many ways the Trump administration is attacking immigrants and the descendants of immigrants. They have also created a “denaturalization task force” to try to find strip people of citizenship. They have discharged military recruits who signed up to gain citizenship by serving in the U.S. military. They have slowed the naturalization process, creating an enormous backlog for immigrants trying to become citizens.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii tweeted: ““They are coming after Americans now. I repeat, they are coming after Americans now. We cannot assume that they feel constrained by law or morality.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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