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'Ethnic Cleansing by Bureaucracy': Trump Administration Denying Passports, Accusing Latino Citizens of Having Fake Birth Certificates

"First vilification...Escalated raids and border militarization. Family separations...Now, mass revocations of citizenship."

The U.S. State Department has accused hundreds of Latino citizens who live near the U.S.-Mexico border of having fraudulent birth certificates. Some have been refused reentry into the U.S. after traveling in Mexico, with officials accusing them of actually being Mexican citizens. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Offering the latest proof that its assault on immigrants' rights is based in racism rather than a concern for citizens' safety, the Trump administration has accused hundreds—if not thousands—of Latino Americans of having fraudulent birth certificates and has refused to issue passports to many, while detaining and threatening deportation for others.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that hundreds of Latinos living near the U.S.-Mexico border have been denied passports and passport renewals and have been refused reentry into the U.S. after traveling south of the border, with the State Department alleging that they had been born outside the U.S. even though they have American birth certificates.

One citizen was detained for three days after presenting his passport while attempting to re-enter the U.S. from Mexico. A deportation hearing is scheduled for 2019. Another was denied a passport renewal and asked to provide his parents' rental agreement from when he was a baby and evidence of his mother's prenatal care to prove his citizenship—but was again denied after he sent the documentation to the State Department.

The department claims South Texas is rife with residents who have been posing as U.S. citizens since they were babies, issuing a statement to the Post that there is a "significant number of fraudulent citizens along border."

"I don't think this piece is getting the freakout it deserves." —Kelly Hayes, journalistAs evidence, the Trump administration has pointed to decades-old federal cases in which midwives in the region admitted to selling U.S. birth certificates to some families who needed citizenship—but it has no proof that those who have been targeted are not U.S. citizens.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama also denied passports to people who had been born in the Rio Grande Valley, for the same reason. But passport denials were nearly eliminated after 2009, when the ACLU challenged the practice.

Now, according to attorneys in South Texas, cases of the State Department questioning Hispanics' citizenship have gone up again.

"We're seeing these kind of cases skyrocketing," Jennifer Correro, an attorney in Houston, told the Post.

On social media, Trump critics compared the State Department's practice to "ethnic cleansing" and expressed concern that it could fly under the radar in a country overwhelmed by President Donald Trump's ongoing legal battles, attacks on the press, potential confirmation of a second anti-choice Supreme Court justice, and dozens of other causes for outrage.

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