Denials of U.S. Passports for Some Born on the U.S. / Mexico Border

According to recent reports, there has been an increase in U.S. passport application denials to individuals with birth certificates showing that they were born in the United States near the U.S. / Mexico border. Many of these individuals are then sent to detention centers and sometimes placed in removal (i.e. deportation) proceedings, with immigration officials under the Trump Administration alleging that the birth certificates are fake and that these individuals are falsely claiming U.S. citizenship. Despite the crackdown on such cases, the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which is responsible for issuing U.S. passports, claims that there has been no change in policy or practice and that the area around the border simply happens to be an area where there has been a significant increase in citizenship fraud.

Allegations of Falsified Birth Records

The government alleges that from the 1950s through 1990s, a large number of midwives and physicians issued falsified U.S. birth certificates to babies who actually were born in Mexico. In fact, during a series of federal cases in the 1990s, several birth attendants admitted to falsifying birth records.

During the Bush and Obama Administrations, there was a policy to deny passports to people who were delivered by midwives in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas. The problem is that the same midwives who provided falsified birth certificates also legally delivered thousands of babies in the United States, and it is nearly impossible to distinguish between the legitimate and falsified documents. The use of midwives in the area is common and widespread. The blanket policy to deny issuing U.S. passports mostly came to an end in 2009, after a settlement with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Under the Trump Administration, however, these types of denials have started up again.

Hard-to-Obtain Evidence Requested During Passport Application Process

If a passport applicant has a birth certificate filed by a midwife or other birth attendant suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities, the DOS may ask for additional documentation to establish that the individual was in fact born in the United States. The evidence being requested is often obscure or hard to obtain. Those who are unable to demonstrate that they were born in the United States are denied the U.S. passport.


The DOS claims that such a denial does not necessarily mean that one will be placed in deportation proceedings. But, even if that does not occur, it still leaves the individual in legal limbo, with the U.S. government claiming that s/he is not a U.S. citizen, and presumably is in the country illegally. This means that the person could potentially be placed in removal proceedings at any time. Plus, not having a passport makes it virtually impossible for one to travel internationally until the matter is resolved.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.