LatinaLista — The stories started trickling over the community listserve a few weeks ago. A woman whose mother was born in 1951 along the Texas-Mexico border by a midwife was having trouble getting a passport.
It seems passport officials didn’t believe she was an American citizen even though the family supplied documents like records of her elementary school, certificate of Baptism, Death Certificates of both parents, and the property listed under the woman’s father’s name in Raymondville Texas. The officials said that the midwife listed on the birth certificate couldn’t possibly have assisted in her birth (how they know, I’m not sure) but the family basically feels the government is accusing the mother of lying about being a citizen.
Mireya Salgado, a Porter High School teacher, looks at her birth certificate as she sits on a curb Friday on Shary Avenue, near where she was born more than five decades ago.
(Source: Brad Doherty/The Brownsville Herald)
So now, the family has to supply records of any brothers and sisters who attended schools, employment history of both parents (especially the woman’s mother), between 1950-1951. The only trouble, and which was quite common in the 1950s, is that the woman’s mother didn’t work outside the house and her father was a laborer.
Before we could shake our heads in sympathy with this family for the extra 10 miles the government was making this family go just to prove citizenship, there surfaced yet more stories — all the same.
The government is discounting the midwife births of Mexican-American children born along the Texas-Mexico border.
According to a Brownsville Herald report, thousands of Rio Grande Valley residents are being denied a passport because the federal government doesn’t believe they were born on this side of the border.
It doesn’t matter if they’ve lived all their lives in the United States (sound familiar?) or served in the military or are paying back their community through their leadership and involvement, the government now says they can’t be sure if these children, who are now in their late 40s and 50s, are truly Americans.
All of this came about because it’s now necessary to carry a passport when you’re just crossing the border to visit family, who may just live a few miles down the road, in Mexico. The government is now issuing passport cards for these short trips by car or foot and naturally everyone is applying who lives along the border.
The passport cards are cheaper than the regular passport and are more handy to carry since they’re the size of a driver’s license and can easily fit into a wallet.
Well, because everyone now needs one just to go a few miles, the government is saying that they don’t have “faith” in midwife granted birth certificates given the history of fraudulent birth certificates in the region.
The INS’ suspicions about midwife-delivered births are fed by fraudulent documents tied to those sort of births. From 1960 to 2008, more than 75 South Texas midwives were convicted of signing birth certificates for children they did not deliver. Determining which midwife-granted birth certificates are false is a near-impossible task. Convicted midwives were never asked to reveal which children they delivered, and which paid for fraudulent documentation.
A list compiled by INS revealed that of the nearly 250 midwives who practiced in South Texas between 1961 and 1996, 60 were convicted of fraudulent crimes. Since 1999, an additional 19 current and former South Texas midwives were also convicted.
So after 40-some odd years, the government is telling these people that until proven otherwise, they’re not citizens?
Needless to say, this kind of news is traumatizing (again a familiar story) hardworking people who know they were either born legitimately on this side of the border or have lived their lives in good faith believing they were, but are now having a hard time proving it to government officials.
According to the Texas Midwifery Board, the use of midwives was very common in Texas at one time. Back in 1925, more than 50 percent of the babies were born with the help of midwives. The Texas-Mexico border region has always been known for its poverty and so it’s not hard to believe that the practice was used heavily in the 1940s, 50, 60s and even early 70s.
Though the Texas border region had a high concentration of Latinos living there, it’s also known that discrimination and separate drinking fountains existed in this part of the country too for Latinos.
Instead of making it so difficult for these people to prove their citizenship, because many times, especially for the older people, midwives and parents have died and old neighborhoods disappeared, the government should take into account other factors that make it easier to prove their citizenship — school records, shot records, military service, how far a credit history extends – not whether it’s good or bad, etc.
It’s almost understandable for the government to take this action on those born in the 1990s but in the 50s and 60s?
It seems a bit overzealous at this stage of the game and is just yet one more example of how Latino citizens are getting caught up in the absurdity of what the federal government claims is safeguarding national security.