All persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States.
— Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
There are, of course, various ways of doing it. Hitler had one, Bahrain has another, and Trump yet another. Readers can decide for themselves which is preferable. First things first.
Hitler set a date certain. That date was Oct. 5, 1938. That was the date that the Reich Ministry of the Interior invalidated all passports held by German Jews. All the German Jew had to do to get a new passport following that decree, was to get a new passport with the name “Israel” (if a man) or “Sara” (if a woman) included in the applicant’s name, and have the new passport stamped with a large red letter “J.” That was only of temporary benefit, however. On Nov. 25, 1941, the Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich was passed. That law stripped both Jews with German citizenship living within Germany, and those living outside Germany, of their citizenship.
On July 27, 2018, a report from Human Rights Watch disclosed that the Bahraini authorities have been taking citizenship away from Bahraini citizens based on executive orders or court decisions. According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), thus far in 2018, the Bahranian authorities have stripped 232 Bahranians of their citizenship. Since 2012, an additional 500 have seen their citizenship revoked. According to Eric Goldstein, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, “While authorities claim that these acts are linked to national security, they are in fact punishing many people for peacefully voicing dissent.”
If Bahranian citizenship is revoked by a criminal court decision, the revocation is subject to appeal. If it is revoked through a royal decree or Interior Ministry Order, two levels of court appeals are available. Reportedly, citizenship revocations have rarely been reversed. An amendment to the Citizenship Law of 1963, passed in 2014, says the Interior Ministry can take away a person’s right of citizenship (subject to cabinet approval) of anyone who “aids or is involved in the service of a hostile state,” or who “causes harm to the interests of the Kingdom or acts in a way that contravenes his duty of loyalty to it.” Those who have fallen victim to the Bahranian attacks on citizenship include prominent human rights advocates, clerics, and defendants in mass trials, all of whom were deprived of the right to mount meaningful defenses.
Donald Trump is nothing (and he is nothing) if not ingenious. He does not need to follow in Hitler’s footsteps when it comes to taking away passports and citizenship, nor does he need Bahrain as an example. He has his own ways. They are no less effective, however.
A report in the Washington Post on Aug. 29, 2018, discloses that passport renewals are being denied based on the government’s belief that the applicants for passports, or those seeking renewal, were using fraudulent birth certificates in order to prove their citizenship. The issue exists, he believes, because along the U.S.-Mexico border, babies have for many years been delivered by mid-wives. There is some evidence that a few mid-wives who delivered babies years ago on the Mexican side of the border, stated in the birth certificate that the baby was born in the United States. That made the baby a U.S. citizen.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly used a murder committed by an illegal immigrant as evidence that all illegal immigrants are murderers. He has now taken the same approach to birth certificates. Since a few mid-wives lied on birth certificates, all birth certificates issued by mid-wives are presumptively fraudulent.
According to the Washington Post, hundreds of people living along the U.S.-Mexico border are now being denied passports, or renewal of existing passports. Some people who have been travelling outside the United States and are trying to re-enter using valid passports are denied entry and, in some cases, taken into custody and brought before immigration authorities in order to face deportation proceedings. Applicants for passports who provide U.S. birth certificates may learn that not only will they not receive passports but will, instead, be jailed in immigration centers and enrolled, as it were, in deportation proceedings.
In the case of someone identified by the Post as Juan, a 40-year-old adult who had served two years in the U.S. Army, been a cadet in the Border Patrol, and is now serving as a prison guard, his passport application was denied. He was told by the State Department that he should provide evidence of his mother’s prenatal care that took place more than 40 years ago, his baptismal certificate, and rental agreements from the time when he was a baby.
In some cases, described by an attorney quoted in the Post story, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have gone to his clients’ homes uninvited and taken away their passports.
Under the 1941 German edict, there was no right of appeal. In Bahrain, there is. In the United States, following denial or revocation of passports, some of the affected citizens have sued the government. According to a lawyer who has represented a number of people suing the government over their passport denials or revocations, one of the questions government attorneys frequently asked applicants in those proceedings was: “Do you remember when you were born?” It’s the perfect question to ask in a proceeding sponsored by Mr. Trump.