The State Department is refusing thousands of passport applications from people born along the border, accusing Hispanic applicants of citizenship fraud.
Texas legislators say the government’s policy is a systematic problem, demonstrative of bias against the United States’ large Hispanic minority. Antipathy toward individuals of Mexican, Central and South American backgrounds has featured prominently throughout President Trump’s tenure.
But denying passports to U.S. citizens with registered birth certificates marks yet another deviation from administrations past.
“This represents an unacceptable targeting of people based on their ethnic heritage,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). “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.”
But, as The Independent suggests, Republican leaders are unlikely to avert their current course.
The government says that, decades ago, midwives and doctors in South Texas provided fraudulent birth certificates to babies—babies brought to the United States not long after birth but actually born in Mexico. Several cases adjudicated in the 1990s saw healthcare providers pleading guilty to fraud.
In a statement, the State Department said it “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications” and 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.”
Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both created anti-fraud initiatives focusing on fake birth certificates issued in South Texas and other tracts of border. However, a 2009 lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union led to a settlement which seemingly resolved the issue.
Lawyers from border states say passport denials gradually trickled off during the last year of the Obama administration, making it easier for individuals to substantiate their citizenship outside of court.
State Department statistics show that passport denials for citizens born to fraud-suspected midwives and doctors are at their lowest level in years. But the Independent and Post say those figures don’t tell the whole story. Hundreds—possible thousands—of citizens born along the U.S.-Mexico border are issued continuous requests for ‘more information,’ their passport applications never approved or denied.
Some Republicans, including Ted Cruz, have backed up the State Department narrative on combating fraud.
“It is important to ensure that the rights of all US citizens are respected and protected, while also preventing fraud by people who are not in our country legally,” Cruz said. “If U.S. citizens are being denied their passports, that needs to stop. But if someone is not a U.S. citizen, then their passport request should be denied.”
The Washington Post says that passport disputes have had serious repercussions for citizens. Some, suspected of passport fraud, found themselves stuck in Mexico or other foreign countries while attempting to re-enter the United States, their documents canceled after departing American soil. Others have been sent to immigration detention centers or entered into deportation proceedings, despite holding valid U.S. birth certificates.
“We’re challenging citizens of the U.S. who have been citizens of this country for years and have gotten a passport in years past,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). “There’s no basis saying they’re violating security.t I’m going to ask for hearings to be held on the Judiciary Committee and immigration subcommittee on homeland security.
“I am really concerned about this,” she said. “It is another telltale sign of the administration trying to block legal immigration and citizens just because they happen to be Hispanic or Muslim, and that’s tragic and that’s not America.”