It seems like every day brings another outrageous story of the Trump administration’s racist policies, but even in a year that brought us children separated from their parents at the border and held in cages this story from the Washington Post on Wednesday stands out as a dark moment for American history.
The report revealed that Trump’s State Department is now denying passports to US citizens of Hispanic descent who live near the US-Mexico border, bringing their citizenship into question.
The story reports: “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.”
In some cases, passport applicants with official US birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States. As the Trump administration attempts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, the government’s treatment of passport applicants in South Texas shows how US citizens are increasingly being swept up by immigration enforcement agencies.
As Matt Ford of The New Republic points out on Twitter, natural-born American citizens cannot have their citizenship revoked, so the administration is trying to get around it by calling their birth itself into question.
Some limited instances of passport fraud have been discovered in the past, as the Post notes; the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama denied some passports based on evidence of fraud, though they stopped after a 2009 court settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But it seems clear that the Trump administration is using that as a pretext to deny citizenship rights to thousands of Americans based purely on their race.
It is especially key to note that the areas being especially targeted are in Democratic-voting parts of Texas, where Republicans are facing a surprisingly stiff challenge from the Democrats in the upcoming Senate race in November. In a race which recent polls show as being potentially close to a statistical tie, denying the citizenship, and therefore the voting rights, of thousands of Americans in this area could be enough to maintain the GOP’s tenuous grip on the Senate.
This kind of behaviour is perhaps dismally unsurprising, coming as it does from a president who began his campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists”. The policy of separating the children of illegal immigrants from their parents at the border was itself completely indefensible and monstrous.
But the fact that American citizenship, an American birth certificate, is no longer any bar to being targeted by Trump’s enforcement agencies is a sign that we may have entered a dangerous and dark new phase.