LatinaLista — It was just a little over a year ago that unimaginable stories of how Mexican-Americans, along the Texas-Mexico border, who had the misfortune of being birthed by a midwife, were suddenly being denied passports. The situation was problematic because without a passport, these border dwellers couldn't comply with the new federal regulations for crossing into Mexico -- a part of their lives that is as routine as people driving from one suburb to another in other parts of the country.
People who had been military veterans, border patrol agents and hard-working business owners suddenly found their patriotism and their citizenship questioned because the government had decided that there was a time when midwives were falsifying birth records -- saying Mexican-born children were born in the U.S. -- for a price, it is assumed.
Unfortunately, most of these cases couldn't be proven true because the midwives had died. So all these people, who in the eyes of the government were "questionable," had to submit an overabundance of paperwork to prove their citizenship.
The federal government required so much more paperwork and were not responding in a timely manner to the passport requests that a frustrated group of people filed a lawsuit against the State Department.
It was settled in August but from reports trickling into Latina Lista, the memo has yet to reach Washington.
On August 14, 2009, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas approved a settlement agreement in Castelano et al. v. Clinton et al.
The courts agreed with the plaintiffs that the fact that these people were birthed by midwives didn't justify the lengthy and arduous process they alone were subjected to by the State Dept.
As to be expected: "The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or an indication that any law was violated."
So maybe that explains why the State Dept. isn't any further along in addressing the stress and unequal treatment that it is imposing on Mexican-Americans in South Texas who are still having trouble getting their passports.
Like everyone, I thought that once the lawsuit was settled, the State Dept. would gets its act together and process the backlog of applications they must have. After all, the Obama administration has made it a point to say that they want to work with the Latino community.
The problem seems to be that actions aren't always matching up with the rhetoric.
I didn't realize there was still a problem until a reader, Ricardo, posted his frustration at Latina Lista. When I contacted him and asked him if his situation was any better and that I would check into it for him, he wrote:
Finally, somebody will do something about this issue and my answer is no, on the contrary, this is getting worse. I don't know what is wrong with these people but it sounds to me like an act of discrimination against immigrants of Mexican descent.
I really don't understand these guys, for when I born (42 years ago) my father submitted his green card petition and it was granted to him. 20 years after that, I got married and petition for ex-wife and she was accepted too.
Consequently what makes this more frustrating is that these people know the situation and they don't explain (to) us anything. They let us spend more than 5 thousand US dollars and when we are scheduled for an interview, these people tell us "you need this, you need that."
Why do they wait till the last moment to tell us all this when they had all the paperwork for over a year? They knew that my birth certificate is written "delivered by mid-wife."
Why they made me spend all this money on medical tests, vaccines, and motel and travel expenses? Now, if I don't get my passport in six months all that money will be lost because everything will (be) expired by then. So I urge you to do something over this issue. I don't have 5 thousand dollars more to spend again.
I want to add that I have sent letters to President Obama, Ciro Rodriguez and Hillary Clinton and these complaints have not been responded. Only Mr. Rodriguez has got in touch with me.
I contacted Rep. Ciro Rodriguez's office in Washington. His district covers the area most affected by these passport denials. His press secretary, Rebeca Chapa, released the following statement to Latina Lista:
"Congressman Rodriguez is well aware of the issue facing people who were delivered by midwives and who are having trouble getting a passport. We have been actively engaged in working with the State Department to address these issues and we're glad to hear a settlement was finally reached between applicants and the State Department to address many of these cases. Our staff continues to be in touch with officials of the State Department and in October, a member of our staff will meet with the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services on precisely this issue.
Our office has been contacted by constituents affected by these midwife cases and will continue to assist them with this problem in the hope of ensuring that those who are eligible for a passport get one as quickly as possible."
If it's a new day in Washington, as this administration would like for the Latino community to believe, then it's time to reverse the bad practices of the prior administration and expedite the requests of these people who are proud Americans but are being made to feel like outcasts because the federal government insists on treating these particular people as such.
Until, this situation is rectified in the manner befitting any American citizen, it's just another same, old day in Washington.
In June 2009, a TIME magazine correspondent followed up on the passport denials of midwife-birthed Latinos and filed the following video report: