Midwife Births Raise Questions About Citizenship

Christopher Sherman, AP, February 10, 2009

The citizenship of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who insist they are Americans is being called into question because they were delivered by midwives near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The federal government’s doubts have arisen as many people in the border region try to meet a June 1 deadline to obtain U.S. passports so they can freely cross from one country to the other.

The people delivered by midwives have documents such as birth certificates and medical records. But the agency that grants passports is challenging the credibility of those papers, citing a history of some midwives fraudulently registering Mexican-born babies as American.

The passport applications being questioned include those of children of Mexican women who crossed the border to give birth in the United States, and even employees of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency who were born on the border and now work to protect it.

The government has “effectively reduced to second-class citizenship status an entire swath of passport applicants based solely on their being of Mexican or Latino descent and having been delivered by midwives in nonhospital settings in Southwestern border states,” according to a federal lawsuit against the State Department filed last year in McAllen.

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Since 1960, 75 Texas midwives have been convicted of fraudulently registering Mexican-born babies as American. At one point, the government assembled a list of nearly 250 “suspicious” midwives but never explained what made them suspicious.

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If the lawsuit is not resolved before June 1, families “will have to choose if you’re going to live in Mexico or you’re going to live in the U.S. You won’t be able to cross,” said Lisa Brodyaga, another immigration attorney.

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