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52

OCTOBER 2016

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

U.S. passport? I think there were, maybe, two.”

He spent the next hour explaining how to fill out a passport

application and, more importantly, how to protect their children’s

rights as dual nationals. He also fielded some difficult questions

when it wasn’t clear if the person asking had legal status to be in

the United States. “My job is to communicate the passport process

to the parents of American citizens,” Rodriguez says. “It’s not my

role to crack down on illegal immigration when I am just trying to

protect the rights of the child.”

An Awkward Tension

Under the rights of jus solis, if you are born on U.S. soil, you are

a U.S. citizen.

But when illegal immigration is involved, the issue is conten-

tious. Some states have made it difficult for undocumented par-

ents to receive a copy of the U.S. birth certificate of their U.S.-born

children. For example, in Texas in 2015 a federal judge ruled that

the state may continue to deny U.S. birth certificates to children

whose parents present only Mexican consular identification cards.

Though the child is a U.S. citizen by birth, the parents are unable

to obtain the U.S. birth certificate, leaving the child effectively

stateless.

It is therefore no surprise that the government of Mexico

has joined numerous civil rights organizations in ongoing court

battles in Texas to ensure that children born in the United States

can be documented as U.S. citizens.

Given the politicized nature of the immigration issue, some

people might ask, how does the U.S. government justify actively

seeking out the U.S.-born children of migrants while turning a

blind eye to the parents’ legal status? For CA’s Geoff Martineau,

there is no ambiguity: “This is 100 percent the right thing to do.

These are American kids. And a little effort now saves a lot of

problems later.”

Through the dedicated efforts of passionate individuals across

Mexico and the United States, Documéntate is creating a para-

digm shift in binational culture, where government authorities on

both sides of the border are working together to address an issue

close to home. For Karin Lang, this binational partnership is key to

forming a new vision of how we see these migrant children.

“We need to be moving away from looking at people as either

U.S. or Mexican citizens to be served by either one government

or the other, and moving toward acknowledging the growing num-

bers who are citizens of both countries and likely to live on both

sides of the border,” Lang says.

Considering the massive costs of under-documentation, it is in

the best interest of both nations to do so.

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