The Trump administration is denying passports to hundreds of Americans who live along the US-Mexico border, accusing them of using fraudulent birth certificates and demanding additional proof that they were, indeed, born in the United States, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
In some cases, those people have reportedly even had their passports revoked, been jailed, and thrown into deportation proceedings, according to immigration attorneys.
One American, whom The Post identified only as “Juan,” served in the US Army, Border Patrol, and currently as a state prison guard — but when he applied to renew his passport, the State Department said in a letter it didn’t believe he was a US citizen, and asked for documents like evidence of his mother’s prenatal care, a baptismal certificate, and rental agreements from his infancy.
“I served my country. I fought for my country,” Juan told The Post, adding that the accusations infuriated him.
Citizens like Juan have come to the government’s attention because their birth certificates indicate they were born with the assistance of midwives in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley region between the 1950s and the 1990s.
The government alleges that some of those doctors and midwives who worked in the area gave US birth certificates to babies who were actually born in Mexico — an accusation that several birth attendants admitted to in court in the 1990s.
The practice of denying passports to people who were delivered in the Texas-Mexico region by midwives started under the Obama administration, The Post reported, but the administration backed down after settling a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union in 2009.
The State Department told The Post in a statement that passport applicants are asked to provide “additional documentation establishing they were born in the United States” if their birth certificates were filed by midwives or other birth attendants “suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities.”
The department added: “The US-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”
While immigration attorneys said passport applicants usually win their citizenship cases in court, people accused of fraud told The Post the incidents made them question their identities as Americans.
“You’re getting questioned on something so fundamentally you,” one woman named Betty, who was denied a passport, told The Post.
The passport denials are the latest in a series of efforts the Trump administration has made toward limiting citizenship.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency is reportedly investigating fingerprint records to identify naturalized citizens who made fraudulent statements to obtain American citizenship.
The administration is also reportedly preparing rules that would block some immigrants from obtaining citizenship if they used programs like Obamacare and food stamps.