Eugene Robinson on Denial of Passports to Mexican-Americans in South Texas: “vile, unadulterated racism”
Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post exposed the latest Trump administration push to criminalize people of color and immigrants, even if they are U.S. citizens. The outrage in response has been nationwide and palpable.
Below, we excerpt some of the latest commentary decrying the continuing crisis.
President Trump’s bigoted hatred of Latino immigrants has been clear from the beginning. Now his administration is aggressively persecuting Latino citizens as well.
…Denial of passports effectively renders the victims stateless — meaning they cannot travel outside the country, because they would not be readmitted — and potentially vulnerable to being deported. Again, these are people who have government-issued birth certificates, long accepted as gold-standard proof of citizenship. The Trump administration simply doesn’t see Latinos as full-fledged Americans.
The Post quoted a 40-year-old man named Juan — he didn’t want his last name used for fear of being targeted — who has a birth certificate stating he was born in the Texas border city of Brownsville. He served his country for three years in the U.S. Army, then was a cadet in the Border Patrol, and now works as a Texas state prison guard. But when he applied to renew his passport this year, the State Department responded with a letter saying it didn’t believe he was a citizen.
A military veteran who served his country was told that it isn’t his country after all.
Think how you would feel if this nightmare were happening to you. Like everyone else, you have no memory of the details of your birth. You know only what your parents have told you and what the official records say, all of which is almost surely true. Suddenly, because of your Latino heritage, your core identity is challenged and your right to live in the United States is threatened.
…At this point, the Trump administration has the burden of proving this is anything other than vile, unadulterated racism.
In its zeal to rid the United States of people living here illegally, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has long crossed lines of decency and propriety — from detaining the undocumented in jails regardless of whether they pose a flight risk or a public safety threat to, more recently, separating parents from their children at the border to try to deter families from entering.
And not just immigrants are affected by these zero-tolerance policies. This year the Los Angeles Times reported that some 1,500 American citizens had been detained for deportation in error, often because investigators messed up the identifications. One example: After investigators mistook his father, a Jamaican-born American citizen, for a noncitizen with a similar name, a New York man spent 1,273 days in detention before he finally persuaded the government that he was, indeed, a U.S. citizen.
Now comes a report from the Washington Post that the government has revived a practice of denying passport applications and renewals from hundreds of people of Mexican descent living along the Rio Grande. Why? Because they had been born with the assistance of a midwife at home or in a community health center rather than at a regional hospital, a not uncommon practice in remote and impoverished areas where health services can be hard to find. Unfortunately, some of the midwives had fraudulently attested that a few Mexican-born babies had been delivered on the U.S. side of the border, improperly qualifying them for citizenship. During the George W. Bush administration the government began questioning the citizenship of thousands of people simply because they had been delivered by one of the handful of midwives who had committed fraud.
With their passports revoked and their citizenship questioned, some have been jailed pending deportation proceedings, an outrageous act of injustice.
As unconscionable as those actions are, they pale in comparison to challenging the citizenship of Americans based on a barest whisper of wrongdoing not by them, but by the people who brought them into this world.
The Trump administration long ago abandoned any pretense that its anti-immigrant crackdown is about illegal immigration. The emerging question is whether it’s about immigration at all.
…The department claims its policy and practice haven’t changed under Trump, but attorneys in the region told the Post that cases have surged as officials have put physician deliveries under added scrutiny.
That would be sadly in keeping with the administration’s efforts to denaturalize more naturalized citizens, make green cards more scarce and difficult to obtain, and limit immigration and naturalization based on skills, education, native language, government assistance and other potential proxies for ethnicity. The growing threat to certain citizens bears an unmistakable echo of Trump’s infamous challenge to Obama’s birth certificate — a questioning of one’s right to be considered American based entirely on race.