Don’t like what I write?
By LINDA CHAVEZ
The email looked innocuous enough, sent to my personal account and with a real name attached to the sender: Asher Thompson. But the first few sentences told me that something was awry: “Israel is building a wall, refusing refugees, deporting Africans. Yet, you are silent about this. You only demand Third World immigration and refugees for the USA and Europe. Why not demand the same for Israel? We both know why.”
The why, no doubt, is that I am a longtime supporter of Israel and I happen to be married to a Jew, something my alt-right critics often point to in questioning my allegiance to the United States. But Asher — if that is his real name — added another explanation: “Your hatred of whites and Western Civilzation (sic) really shows through.” Right. That would be a surprise to my critics on the left, who often accuse me of being Eurocentric, and Latino radicals, who often describe me as a coconut. But it was the writer’s last sentence that I found most chilling: “I just wrote Trump a letter asking that he arrest and deport you.”
I’m not expecting ICE to come knocking on my door any time soon, but the idea that anyone with a Spanish surname is deportable is shocking. Yet I get this reaction often enough to realize that for a vocal swath of those on the right, anyone is suspect who doesn’t fit their image of what an American should be. As it happens, I was born in the United States, and my lineage, on both parents’ sides, traces back (from Spain and England) some 400 years on these shores. Frankly, it wouldn’t matter even if I were a first-generation American. I can’t be deported.
At least, most people would assume so. If you are born on American soil, the Constitution says, you are an American citizen. But the Trump administration would like to change this. Some groups are launching challenges to the 14th Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” in hopes of denying citizenship to children born to immigrant parents (regardless of whether they are here legally) who have not been naturalized by the time of their birth. President Trump has voiced his support for such efforts.
Now the Trump administration is going even further. The State Department is refusing to recognize as citizens and grant passports to some Americans of Hispanic descent who were born near the border with Mexico, claiming in a statement this week, “The U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.” As a result, some Americans are having their passports confiscated when they try to re-enter the country.
The Washington Post this week described one egregious incident involving a Mexican-American born in Brownsville, Texas, who has served his entire adult life in uniform — three years in the U.S. Army, as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard in Texas. But when the 40-year-old man applied to renew his U.S. passport, he was denied, even though he produced his official U.S. birth certificate. Other Americans have actually been detained and their passports taken when returning to the U.S. after visiting abroad, according to the Post’s investigation. Mexican-Americans born in border towns (especially if they were delivered by midwives) are being asked to produce baptismal records, maternal prenatal doctor records, rent receipts from the time of their birth and other difficult-to-obtain documents years after they were born to receive a U.S. passport.
The Trump administration is also trying to take away citizenship from some naturalized citizens. In a program called “Operation Second Look,” the Department of Homeland Security is reviewing naturalization records to see whether any of those who have become citizens misrepresented any information in their application process. The 2019 DHS budget even calls for hiring 500 new employees to help ferret out those the administration deems suspect.
Pardon me if I am suspicious that many of those who will get a “second look” or who will be denied passports will have names like Chavez. Given this administration’s actions and the president’s rhetoric, perhaps Asher Thompson has good reason to believe he will be successful at getting me booted out of the country. It’s a scary thought.
Linda Chavez is chair of the Center for Equal Opportunity and a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.