Singh is among the first targets in a denaturalization campaign launched by the Trump administration, which opened a new office in Los Angeles last summer, staffed by dozens and dedicated to investigating the citizenship files of 700,000 naturalized Americans.
But even some born within America’s borders are having their citizenship questioned. Take, for example, retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Enrique Martinez. His birth certificate stating he was born in Texas was good enough for the U.S. Marine Corps. Nonetheless, the State Department refused his application for a passport on the grounds that it was insufficient proof that he was a U.S. citizen.
Martinez is one of thousands of Americans denied passports since George W. Bush’s administration because, in the government’s view, their citizenship is in doubt. These individuals are typically of Hispanic descent born near the southern border, and their birth certificates were signed by midwives. Because some midwives have admitted to issuing fraudulent birth certificates in the past, the government now takes the view that hundreds of thousands of Americans are presumed foreigners unless or until they can prove otherwise. “You’re getting questioned on something so fundamentally you,” one woman told The Washington Post last year. Although denials of passports began before Donald Trump took office and the State Department has disputed the details, lawyers report “a surge in cases” over the past few years.
The Trump administration’s rejection of U.S. birth certificates, denials of passports, and denaturalization campaign amount to an attack on the citizenship of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities. Surely it is no coincidence that all of the administration’s initiatives have primarily targeted people of color, be they Hispanics living near the border or naturalized citizens from Muslim countries.