Monday, April 06, 2009

Still no passport if you were delivered by a midwife in Texas

Still no passport if you were delivered by a midwife in Texas

Last September in my article, Delivered by a midwife in South Texas? No passport for you, I discussed the serious difficulties suffered by many Latinos born in the Southwest, who were delivered by midwives, who are trying to obtain their US passport. It's time for an update, and for Latinos it's still an uphill battle.

The problem stems from convictions of South Texas midwives for fraudulently registering births they didn't deliver, between 1960 and the early 1990's. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) lists at least 65 midwives who have been convicted of fraud since the 1960s. US officials have said the cases uncovered forgeries for about 15,000 people actually born in Mexico.

In September 2008, the ACLU filed a suit charging the State Department categorically questions the citizenship of virtually all midwife-delivered Mexican-Americans born in southern border states, and has been forcing these applicants to go to unreasonable lengths to prove their citizenship by providing an excessive number of documents that normally are not required, then denies the application despite receiving the extra documentation.

Since writing my article, I've heard from a number of affected Americans. I think the most disheartening was what Juan wrote.

I also was born in 1978 with a midwife. I haven't even tried applying for a passport because of all the stories out there about denying your application.

In my opinion, and that of many others, the actions of the State Department, to categorically question the citizenship of all Latinos, midwife-delivered in South Texas in the '60s through the 90's, is not justified by the numbers. Only 15,000 fraudulent birth certificates have been discovered. In 2004 alone, 21,000 midwife-delivered births occurred in Texas, a number which has been steady shrinking since the '80s, in part due to the federal convictions.

In other words, the 15,000 fraudulently certified births are a very small number of the total number of Latinos delivered by midwives in Texas, and don't justify a blanket rejection of Latino births certified by midwives over almost four decades.

Sandra, another Latino turned down for a passport wrote saying,

Hi, I find myself in the same boat as many others and have turned even to the new President Obama for help, not sure if it will get me anywhere. I called the ACLU and e-mailed, was contacted by a lawyer working cases in conjunction with them but they could not take anymore clients. They needed my information to prove the cases now at hand. I need help! This is our right!

David wrote after reading my earlier article,

I was born in Brownsville, Texas, and unfortunately am going through the same trouble for a passport, and at this point I don't know what I need to do to get this clear up. I was already questioned by State Department agents and they just told me to go to court…

It looks like it's hard to get help at this point, and potentially very expensive. Who knows how long the ACLU suit will take, and what its outcome will be. Moreover, if the State Department loses, we don't know if they will prolong the case through appeals.

As of June, the problem of being denied a passport becomes more acute than ever. Starting June 1st, all Americans will need a passport, passport card, or other approved travel documents such as Nexus, Sentri or Fast, to be able to return to the US from traveling to a foreign nation. That means Americans need one of these documents to even drive across the border to Mexico or Canada.

Anyone who has been affected by the State Department's refusal to grant a passport due to their birth being certified by a midwife in the Southeastern US should contact the ACLU. Documentation of your information and problems can strengthen their suit, and the ACLU's petition, which seeks class action status for the case.

In addition, contact your Representative in the US House, and your two Senators. It's been my experience that members of the US House of Representatives really try to assist their constituents with their problems with the federal government. You've got to put a human face on the problem.I feel strongly about this situation and will continue to follow it and report on it as a columnist. Sandra said it well.

We deserve to live free. We are US citizens and we deserve the right to travel just like everyone else. I feel like I am in a Golden cage, I am in, but can't get out, and if I do, I can't come home. Where is the justice and pursuit for happiness and liberty in that!

Education for Liberation!
Peter S. Lopez aka: Peta

Sacramento, California, Aztlan

No comments: