All persons born . . . in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States. . . . - Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
August 2008 was a banner month for passports. They played asignificant role in world events that garnered them rare publicity. Twoof the events demonstrated how easy a government can make it to getpassports and one demonstrated how difficult it can be.
In August, Russia and Georgia got into an argument over whetherAbkhazia and South Ossetia should be allowed to leave Georgia andbecome independent or should remain part of Georgia. For the lastseveral years Russia has been issuing passports to residents of SouthOssetia, thus bestowing Russian citizenship on the holders. Thus, wheninvading South Ossetia, Russia was simply going to the aid of itscitizens, albeit many of them Russian-come-lately. (If George Bush wereclever he would have issued passports to Iraqis prior to invading theircountry and then announced he was simply acting to protect UnitedStates citizens.)
China, too, issued passports in furtherance of national objectives.In November 2007 an associated press release described the success of ayoung girl gymnast, He Kexin. He was one of the stars at China’s CitiesGames in November 2007. Xinhua, the Chinese Government’s news agencyreported on her success in those games and said she was 13 years ofage. Olympic rules require that for a gymnast to compete in Olympicgames the gymnast must attain age 16 in the year in which the gamestake place. For He to leap over the years that separate 13 from 16 in amere 9 months was something that not even a gymnast as accomplished asshe could hope to accomplish. It was accomplished instead by issuing apassport. In 9 months He aged 3 years and her team became the firstChinese women’s team to win a gold medal in gymnastics. Passports can,of course, be withheld in furtherance of a country’s foreign policy, asthe United States showed.
A law that goes into effect next year requires anyone crossingbetween the United States and Canada or Mexico to present a passportinstead of a birth certificate or driver’s license. As a result thethousands who cross borders daily because of employment must now obtainpassports. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that many UnitedStates citizens who were born in South Texas are having difficultyobtaining passports.
Ordinarily a passport can be obtained by furnishing the issuingauthority a certified copy of a birth certificate, acceptableidentification and the appropriate fee. Whereas Russia made it easy forpeople in South Ossetia to get passports, the State Department has madeit difficult for people in South Texas to get theirs. A birthcertificate is not always accepted because the State Department haslearned that some people in South Texas have fake birth certificates.Those people were delivered by mid-wives and some of the mid-wives wereconvicted of forging birth certificates for children born not in SouthTexas but in Mexico. The forgeries may have affected as many as 15,000people. Although people in South Texas can vote, become border-patrolagents or president of the United States, they may not obtain passportswithout additional proof that they were born in the U.S.A. Here aresome of the things these presumptively non-citizens can do to satisfythe State Department. They can obtain affidavits or testimony from themid-wives who delivered them, assuming the midwives can be found andcan remember whom they delivered dozens of years after the birth. Theycan produce newspaper announcements of their births or they can producehospital records going back dozens of years to show they were treatedin the hospital if, indeed, they were. Juan Aranda is someone who hasbeen unable to get a passport and here is what he has done.
Juan submitted all the required documentation and when he was turneddown sent in school records going back 38 years showing that hiskindergarten records recited that his birthplace was Weslaco, Texas. Hesent in a picture of his kindergarten class that included him. He sentin a baptismal certificate with a church seal reciting he was born inthat town. He explained that pre-natal medical history was unavailablebecause his mother was too poor to have pre-natal care. The StateDepartment told Mr. Aranda that he hadn’t “fully complied with therequest for additional information” and he should start the process tobecome a naturalized citizen. Instead, Mr. Aranda hired a lawyer. Ifhis lawyer is successful it may soon be as easy for an American citizento get an American passport as it is for a Georgian citizen to get aRussian passport. Mr. Aranda’s success would be remembered as anotherexample of the courts being invoked to protect the citizens of theUnited States from the administration of George W. Bush.
For political commentary see my web page http://humanraceandothersports.com.