Keep your papers handy

As previously reported, U.S. agencies and other groups seem to be moving towards requiring proof of citizenship. In addition, many local law enforcement agencies are becoming agents of immigration enforcement through new laws that require officers to report immigration status.

What does this mean? Keep your papers handy. Maybe you’ll get stopped for speeding. Or maybe you’ll be detained while riding the bus.

The Washington Post reports that Virginia now mandates jail officials to notify federal authorities when inmates are born abroad regardless of immigration status. Virginia is just one state among many that is moving to have local authorities act as agents of Homeland Security. Better hope you don’t have a common name, like Alicia Rodriguez. Because even speaking English as a first language didn’t help her that much.

The Tennessee DMV, which now mandates immigration status checks, has already racked up a series of complaints by legal residents, citizens, refugees and persons who speak English as a second language.

Why? Because some of us appear less “American” than others.

Here’s the conundrum. Supposedly if you are a U.S. citizen you are not required to carry papers proving citizenship. After all, we’re not a police state, are we? (Are we? Are we?) However, if local law enforcement suspects that you’re not a citizen you might wish you had those papers on you. Because otherwise maybe you’ll be deported. Just ask Pedro Guzman.

There is a distinct difference between having citizenship and being able to prove it. How quickly can you prove your citizenship? What if the CIS has to make a determination of status? In the case of one WWII veteran’s son, it took three years before he could persuade the State Department to issue a passport. He still doesn’t have a certificate of citizenship.

In that case, the individual wanted to prove citizenship for benefits. But what happens if deportation is imminent?

The trend towards having local agencies enforce immigration is one that should be deeply disturbing to us all. The manner in which this power may be abused is horrible to contemplate. And how can local law enforcement be expected to know or understand immigration law?  But maybe it doesn’t occur to the average white American because they cannot conceive of themselves as ever being considered non-citizens. Just one of the privileges. Although I note that the Ottawa woman jailed for the speeding violation (second link above) was, as she noted, white and blonde.

Finally, as a slight digression, this brings up Reason 9 for Why I hate adoptive parents. Because white parents are so thoroughly steeped in their privilege, they can’t imagine that their children don’t have that privilege as well. And they don’t recognize that maybe their children need the protection of proof of citizenship. Not just citizenship. If you have never filed for a certificate of citizenship, you have no real way of knowing whether or not the CIS considers your child a citizen. That’s a gamble I don’t think parents should take.

We’ve already had one comment on this post arguing with the interpretation of the Child Citizenship Act. The poster (whom I would be willing to bet is a white adoptive parent) also notes that you don’t “need” a certificate of citizenship for your adopted child.

Well, here I guess what it comes down to is your definition of “need.” But as one of the brown, I can say safely that I need to have proof of my citizenship. Otherwise I better work on my non-English language skills.

6 thoughts on “Keep your papers handy

  1. I am a little confused as I thought this was a blog run by those resisting racism and forms of hatred. I am disappointed to read that you hate me and don’t even know me. And yes I am a white adoptive parent. I read your blog to learn how to be an informed parent to my child who-in case you are wondering- has all the correct citizenship paperwork. Bringing up this issue is great, but the manner in which you are doing so is offensive.

  2. “Because white parents are so thoroughly steeped in their privilege, they can’t imagine that their children don’t have that privilege as well. And they don’t recognize that maybe their children need the protection of proof of citizenship.”

    Lumping all white parents in one group is just as racists as lumping all Latinos into one group. I thought that’s what “your people” are fight against? And you have the b@,,s to call anyone else racists? How disgustingly racists can anyone get!

    “The Tennessee DMV, which now mandates immigration status checks, has already racked up a series of complaints by legal residents, citizens, refugees and persons who speak English as a second language.
    Why? Because some of us appear less “American” than others”.

    Could this be because some of you (and thousands more every day) ARE less American than others? If you don’t like Tennessee go (back?) to a place who’s laws you are willing to abide by.

    As an American citizen I do carry my ID with me at all times. It’s real, it’s mine, and I have nothing to hide.

  3. R101#3

    The problem isn’t that some of us are less American but that some of us get treated as less American because we are not white. Furthermore, maybe you forgot that the American spirit isn’t the passive acceptance of unethical law but the endless pursuit of justice.

  4. Resistance-

    I appreciate your response. I left a comment, because I am a loyal reader of your blog and feel you have a lot of important things to say and report about, including this citizenship issue. I just felt it would be helpful to point out that this language appeared to be inflammatory, not constructive. It did not relate to racism or privilege and it appeared as though you were “hating whitey,” which is not your stated intent. It appears from your response that you believe there was no malice behind what you were saying and that I am just being too egocentric. If so, then I apologize. I truly feel there are so many important issues to discuss here and was disappointed to see language that was directed at my situation (or any situation) in a hateful way. I hope you continue to have great discussions….

  5. Karen: The blog is called “Resisting Racism,” not “Resisting Racism and other forms of hatred.” Not every blog panders to you. Read the article and THINK about what it says instead of getting knee-jerk butthurt over the fact that the author implied you might be doing something ~wrong~ (God forbid).

    Also: “If so, then I apologize” isn’t an apology. Just FYI.

    If you’re old enough to be a parent, you’re old enough to understand that when you make a mistake the appropriate response is to take responsibility for your actions. Your entire apology screams “I AM RIGHT AND U R WRONG NEENER NEENER.”

    You wouldn’t accept your child saying, “Well, IF my room is dirty, sorry.” Is the room dirty? Then it’s dirty? Did you ignore the message of the post? You ignored the message of the post. Say you’re sorry, not “you’re sorry IF.” Non-apologies are immature and unbecoming.

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