Trump's New Birther Crusade: Pretty Much All Mexican-Americans Born In Texas Border Towns
The Trump administration is not exactly filled with smart people, but credit where it's due: They have a certain low cunning when it comes to finding excuses to harass brown people and attack some pretty basic rights -- like people's basic identity as US citizens. The latest fuckery of this sort is playing out in southern Texas, where large numbers of citizens, born in Texas with completely legal Texas birth certificates, have had their US passports revoked or not renewed, and some have even been arrested and placed in deportation proceedings. Why? Because the government has decided maybe those legitimate birth certificates were actually faked. Possibly by Kenyan Muslims, for all we know.
As the Washington Post explains in one of those investigative reports that will have you smacking your forehead and saying "Holy shit, these fuckers!" every other paragraph, these cases are built on one slender wisp of a fact. From the 1950s through the 1990s, a small number of midwives and doctors in the border region filled out paperwork for an unknown number of babies that were actually born in Mexico. That's proven; several birth attendants admitted to it in the 1990s. BUT! There's a complication:
The same midwives who provided fraudulent birth certificates also delivered thousands of babies legally in the United States. It has proved nearly impossible to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate documents, all of them officially issued by the state of Texas decades ago.
A 2009 government settlement in a case litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union seemed to have mostly put an end to the passport denials.
But now, in a move that we suspect has Stephen Miller's pawprints all over it, the government seems to have decided anyone born with the help of any of those midwives or doctors should be assumed to be a frauder, regardless of whether they have a criminal record or have served in the military or have voted for decades, because why not start taking citizenship away from everyone we possibly can? The onus is now on US citizens with actual Texas birth certificates to prove they came by their own birth records legitimately.
Why, yes, that IS insane.
The new scrutiny appears to start with the State Department (where Miller has installed ideological allies) going after people who apply for or renew US passports, after State tends to deny the passport and demand loads of additional paperwork -- and if those demands aren't met, some folks have been arrested and ordered deported. In some cases, US citizens visiting relatives in Mexico have had their passports revoked while still in Mexico, preventing them from returning home.
The State Department insists this is nothing new and that it's simply enforcing existing law -- which as we already know from the family separation disaster is not a statement anyone should trust. The government says this is all perfectly normal action against devious fraudsters who conspired to get fake documents when they were newborns:
In its statement, the State Department said that applicants "who have birth certificates filed by a midwife or other birth attendant suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities, as well as applicants who have both a U.S. and foreign birth certificate, are asked to provide additional documentation establishing they were born in the United States."
"Individuals who are unable to demonstrate that they were born in the United States are denied issuance of a passport," the statement said.
Here's how that works out in reality: A 40-year-old guy named Juan LastNameWithheldForProtection (it's a common surname on the border now) served in the US Army and the friggin' Border Patrol, and is now a prison guard. When he applied to renew his passport, State said it didn't think he was a real citizen. But he was given the chance to provide additional documentation establishing he was born in the United States, all right. Just a few documents of the sort everyone keeps with them since birth:
evidence of his mother's prenatal care, his baptismal certificate, rental agreements from when he was a baby.
He managed to find some of those documents but weeks later received another denial. In a letter, the government said the information "did not establish your birth in the United States."
YOU have all that stuff sitting around in a file, don't you? As of yet, he hasn't been arrested as a crimer, but Juan's going to have to sue to prove to the US government that his Texas-issued birth certificate is legitimate. That's on a $13 per hour salary as a prison guard.
Then there's the US citizen snapped up and questioned about his status when he and his son were returning from Mexico:
Customs and Border Protection agents told him to admit that he was born in Mexico, according to documents later filed in federal court. He refused and was sent to the Los Fresnos Detention Center and entered into deportation proceedings.
Lucky him: He was released after three days, but his passport -- issued in 2008 -- was revoked, and he still has a deportation hearing sheduled next year. Maybe by then he can find his mother's prenatal vitamin prescription and a notarized copy of his umbilical cord from 35 years ago.
It's not even clear how many US citizens are being accused of not being real citizens -- probably hundreds, possibly thousands, according to immigration lawyers. The WaPo piece doesn't say whether anyone has actually been stripped of citizenship and deported -- yet.
But Crom knows it's happened before: Back during the Great Depression, the US summarily deported about a million people from all over the US to Mexico -- and historians estimate that as many as 60 percent of them were actually US-born citizens. And of course Trump himself is a HUGE fan of Dwight Eisenhower's "Operation Wetback" in the 1950s, when another 1.3 million people were deported to the Mexican interior. Again, that madness swept up unknown numbers of American citizens. But don't worry! We're much more careful about finding at least a very thin legal pretext for going after citizens now!
Even more insane? Of the supposed birth certificate frauders and midwives WaPo tracked down, one doctor -- who died in 2015 -- was accused of falsifying birth records for one baby born in Mexico. He delivered over 15,000 babies in his long career, and immigration lawyers are hearing again and again from adults he delivered decades ago, after their passport applications were denied. A midwife who assisted at 600 births in the US admitted she faked records for two babies born on the wrong side of the border.
Just how arbitrary is this idiocy? WaPo notes that when people can afford to sue to have their passports reinstated, most actually win. But only after government lawyers grill them with some perfectly Kafkaesque questions, as Brownsville immigration attorney Jaime Diez notes:
For a while, we had attorneys asking the same question: "Do you remember when you were born?'" I had to promise my clients that it wasn't a trick question.
Fortunately, people targeted by what sure as hell looks like a start at ethnic cleansing may not have to scratch up their own attorneys' fees much longer: The ACLU tweeted yesterday that this story is "all a part of the Trump administration's anti-immigrant, racist agenda — and we won't be quiet about it." Might be a good time to send some cash to the ACLU of Texas. Before registered Democrats are determined disloyal and have their assets frozen as enemies of the state.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.