Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people with birth certificates showing they were born in south Texas are being denied passports – or they’re having them revoked. Their citizenship is now challenged because the State Department doesn’t believe they were really born in the U.S.
Kevin Sieff was first with the story for the Washington Post. He covers Latin America from his base in Mexico City. Sieff says south Texans are affected because midwives in the region were accused of creating fraudulent U.S. birth certificates during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, for babies the government claimed were actually born in Mexico.
“There were a series of trials that were held,” Sieff says. “…and a few midwives were accused – and some admitted – providing fraudulent birth certificates. That happened 30 years ago now.”
Sieff says the thousands of people now being denied passports were, like may in the border region, delivered by midwives, and hold legitimate U.S. birth certificates.
Sieff spoke to a man who was denied a passport. The man served in the military and is now a state prison guard.
“He is someone who in the past had a U.S. passport,” Sieff says. “He was just applying for a renewal… Instead of getting a new passport in the mail, what he got was a letter from the State Department saying that they did not believe he was in fact born in the U.S.
Sieff says the man he talked to was then required to prove he had been born in the U.S.
“He’s trying to find evidence of his mother’s prenatal care in Texas,” Sieff says.
Without a passport, Sieff says, the man he talked to is “being rendered stateless.”
The denial of passports may seem to some like a part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. But Sieff says passport denials of this kind occurred as far back as the George W. Bush administration. Because of a 2008 regulation requiring those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border to show a passport, more U.S. citizens in south Texas acquired one. At that time, the State Department denied many passports to those it believed had been delivered by midwives who created false birth certificates.
Sieff says the federal government lost a lawsuit filed by people who were denied passports, and subsequently denied fewer of them. Under President Donald Trump, the pendulum has swung back.
“We have a number of people who have applied for passports,” Sieff says “[that] were being denied for this reason – their citizenship being questioned – and were then, ultimately entered into deportation proceedings.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.