Trump used to say that even a birth certificate doesn't prove you're really an American citizen. Now his government is putting that into action.
Trump rose to political prominence by insisting that if your race makes you suspect in his eyes, nothing — not even your birth certificate — can prove you are really an American.
This was the ugly and plainly racist argument he made for years to undermine and attack President Barack Obama. Now his government is enforcing that policy against hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of Hispanic Americans.
In a bombshell report by the Washington Post, the State Department — Trump's State Department — is denying passports to American citizens, accusing them of not really being citizens.
"The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship," according to the Post.
American citizens trying to renew their passports are being told to provide further evidence of their citizenship, under the government's suspicion that their birth certificates are fraudulent.
One former soldier the Post spoke with was ordered by the State Department to provide "a range of obscure documents — evidence of his mother’s prenatal care, his baptismal certificate, rental agreements from when he was a baby."
A subsequent letter informed him the documentation he provided "did not establish your birth in the United States."
The government isn't stopping at simply denying passports, however.
"In some cases, passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings," the Post reports. Other American citizens are finding themselves stranded in other countries, unable to return to the U.S.
The practice of denying passports to citizens suspected of having fraudulent birth certificates actually started long before Trump took office. The federal government accused certain midwives and doctors in Texas' Rio Grande Valley of providing false birth certificates to babies born on the Mexican side of the border. Some practitioners admitted to doing so in federal court cases.
But, as the Post notes, they also delivered thousands of babies legally in the U.S. One midwife, for example, delivered 600 babies in Texas but admitted to providing false documentation in two cases. However, many of the other citizens she delivered are also now being denied passports.
A settlement with the ACLU in 2009 largely put an end to the practice.
But now, under Trump, the practice is back and worse than ever.
One Houston attorney who works with citizens who have been denied passports says that such incidents are "skyrocketing."
It makes a sick kind of sense, of course. Trump and his administration are openly hostile toward immigrants in general, and toward Latinos in particular. That those born near the border might now be "suspect" in the eyes of Trump's government is not surprising. It is, however, horrific.
Trump's government is of course refusing to provide details about its practice.
"The State Department would not say how many passports it has denied to people along the border because of concerns about fraudulent birth certificates," the Post reports. "The government has also refused to provide a list of midwives who it considers to be suspicious."
Trump used to be just a blowhard guest on Fox News, spouting his hateful racist birther conspiracy theories at the president. But now he occupies the Oval Office, and his racism is not merely ugly — it's ruining people's lives.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.