In February 2012, a woman stood pregnant outside her Arizona farmhouse, gazing at the vast desert sky pinpricked with what seemed to be as stars. Her belly felt hard as a stone as she nurtured a new life in her womb. She labored inside the house around midnight in an expandable kiddie pool that had crayon-colored fish printed on its sides. Their cartoon faces smiled back at her as she pushed and screamed her head off, striving to bring that new life into this world. Finally, she saw the face of her bundle of joy in the arms of her midwife. The same midwife caught her second son two years later, who came unexpectedly onto the floor of the bathroom.
Although her sons had never been outside the U.S., their passport applications were repeatedly rejected by the State Department citing more evidence of their citizenship, just a few hours after the news broke that Trump government is denying thousands of passport applications tendered by midwife-delivered American applicants from border states.
Allegations claiming that midwives in border states provided falsified U.S. birth certificates to the babies who were born in Mexico. The Obama and Bush administration regularly rejected passport applications of the babies delivered by midwives in Texas for similar reasons, ensuing in a 2009 class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The letters addressed to the woman’s children from the Department of State, who have the Hispanic surname of their father. Aged 4 and 6 they are not yet able to read. The letters say that, “The evidence of U.S. citizenship or nationality you submitted is not acceptable for passport purposes,” and that “the document you submitted does not sufficiently support your date and place of birth in the United States since your birth was in a non-institutional setting.”
In the woman’s case, her children’s the document that does not adequately support their citizenship is an authentic, official birth certificate with the seal. Despite this, the State Department is now demanding a slew of other verification, for instance, rent or employment records from the time of the birth, birth certificates from any older siblings, religious and health records, and parents’ tax.
The rejection of passports to those birthed by midwives in border states marks the latest erosion of American citizens’ rights in the injudicious obsession to seal and militarize the U.S.-Mexico border. The local residents are required to stop at border security checkpoints merely to go to the grocery store or school. Tribal members are surveilled and harassed while participating in ceremonies and harvesting traditional foods.
However, there are countless reasons behind why the woman chose to give birth at home with a midwife. She was not a high-risk prenatal patient. She just wanted the autonomy to walk around in labor and not be bothered by or feel constrained by tubes and machines, to eat something healthier than ice chips if she felt like it. Furthermore, the woman lived in a rural area 90 minutes away from the nearest maternity hospital – a distance rendering pure hell ride to any woman in labor. All she asked for was the liberty to crawl in her own bed with her baby in her arms and just sort of sleep.
Her burden is not nearly that of others. She has the access to the internet, a printer, and a computer for collating six years of tax records, rental agreements, and W – 9s. She also has the benefit of a flexible job as a freelancer and unlimited cell phone minutes to sit on hold with government bureaus. She further says, “If I have to, I will pay an attorney to make sure my children get their passports.”