From the moment Donald Trump hit the campaign trail, reducing the US immigrant population was his top issue. “Build the wall” was more than just a rallying cry about putting a physical block between “Americans” and those who might want to enter the country as refugees, hoping to find a better life or escape poverty and violence. It was also a metaphorical wall, separating the country into two very distinct populations — “white” people and “others.”
Now, almost two years into President Donald Trump’s term, that real intent has become even more stark as his team works to strip finances, legal rights and citizenship itself from immigrant communities — even from those who have become legal citizens.
In perhaps the most aggressive attack yet, the Trump administration is now refusing to offer passports to those who live along the US/Mexico border, and officials are calling into question these residents’ actual American citizenship. At the heart of the issue is a claim that midwives and doctors in border towns allegedly produced fraudulent birth records, allowing undocumented immigrants the ability to claim that their newborns and infants were born inside the United States border — which would provide the babies with birthright citizenship.
By now suddenly calling into question the validity of these official documents, the State Department is able to question the status of individuals who have always been considered US citizens, treating them as undocumented and in the country illegally.
The Washington Post reports:
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.
The issue arose after a few midwives and doctors in the Rio Grande Valley admitted to creating some fake birth certificates, although the number allegedly authored included just a small percentage of the births in the area. Previously, because it was impossible to know which children were affected, the government agreed to simply give all of the babies born during that period the benefit of the doubt. Of course, that was prior to Trump’s presidency. Now, the administration is taking the opposite approach, assuming every certificate was fake in order to attack the Latino population.
Latinos aren’t the only ones under attack, either. According to the Washington Post,thousands of Vietnamese immigrants who have been in the country for decades since they fled Communist Vietnam also face deportation risk. This situation represents the reversal of a longstanding promise that these immigrants were not subject to potential removal since there was no path to citizenship for many of them at the time. Now, Vietnamese refugees are under threat of being ousted from the only home they’ve ever known.
The Trump administration is calling the potential deportees “dangerous criminals” and national security threats. But in reality, most of them were convicted of nonviolent crimes like marijuana possession — and all had already served their time in jail as punishment.
And if that isn’t alarming enough, officials appear to be freezing the bank accounts of those who they believe aren’t US citizens. That means legal residents — despite being in the country with proper paperwork — are now learning that they cannot access their own funds.
You don’t need to be a US citizen to create a bank account, of course. The Sacramento Bee reports:
Proof of citizenship is not required to open a bank account in the US, according to Stephanie Collins, a spokesperson for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal agency that supervises branch banking. Banks are merely required to identify and report suspicious transactions and maintain and update customer information, she said.
While there has been no official word of any federal change that might require any banks to take it upon themselves to ask about citizenship — and freeze the accounts of those who don’t answer — the greater issue is that those who are in the country legally may now feel the need to stop using banks completely. After all, they cannot guarantee that they will get their funds back if they deposit them, and they could easily be put on a watch list, facing additional scrutiny both in their financial dealings or their overall activity in general.
One of the biggest reasons so many people have come to America and have raised generations of families here was to escape oppressive regimes. Now, thanks to the anti-immigrant fervor of the Trump administration, we are becoming one ourselves.
And, as it becomes more obvious every day, these tactics aren’t limited to non-citizens. In fact, they are being put in place explicitly to create more “non-citizens.”