The administration of Donald Trump is the first in memory to make taking away rights and benefits of Americans its greatest priority.
Let’s make a list of everything the Trump administration has taken away or tried to take away since he’s been in office.
They’re trying to make it easier to deny SNAP (food stamp) benefits to low-income Americans by imposing work requirements on those in the program.
They’re going after recipients of Section Eight housing assistance. Trump’s budget for 2019 would reduce by $2 billion the amount of money for Section Eight housing, kicking as many as 200,000 low-income Americans off the program.
They tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away health insurance for millions of Americans who have gotten insurance through the program. Having failed that, they’re going after people with pre-existing conditions, trying to turn the clock back to the days when they could be denied health insurance.
They’re opposing lawsuits challenging unreasonable restrictions on abortion services, trying take away at the right to abortion one restriction at a time. Now they’re seeking to confirm a Supreme Court justice who many believe would vote to repeal Roe v Wade and strip away the right to abortion altogether.
They are supporting laws that make it harder for workers to sue for job or salary discrimination. They supported the recent Supreme Court case that stripped public employee unions of the right to require dues from all members benefitting from pay negotiations.
They are opposing lawsuits seeking to include gay, lesbian and transgender Americans under the nation’s civil rights laws.
They want to reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed in the country every year, and they are making it harder for immigrants to claim asylum from countries where they face discrimination or violence. Recently, the Trump crack-down on immigration included separating children of undocumented immigrants from their parents and locking all of them up in hastily constructed concentration camps along the border.
Not satisfied with attacking both illegal and legal immigration, Trump is going after citizenship itself, attacking the idea that if you’re born in the United States, you are automatically a citizen.
In the early days of his campaign for president, in August of 2015, he told CNN, “The 14th Amendment is very questionable as to whether or not somebody can come over and immediately that baby is a citizen.” Trump suggested that what has come to be known as “birthright citizenship” could be ended with an executive order. “You can do something very fast,” he told CNN in 2015.
The issue was raised anew by Michael Anton, a former official on Trump’s National Security Council. In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Anton attacked the idea that the 14th Amendment’s plain language confers citizenship on anyone born in the United States. The first sentence of the amendment, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside,” doesn’t mean what it says it means, according to Anton. Birthright citizenship is based on “a deliberate misreading of the 14th Amendment. The notion that simply being born within the geographical limits of the United States automatically confers U.S. citizenship is an absurdity — historically, constitutionally, philosophically and practically.”
“It falls, then, to Trump,” asserts Anton. “An executive order could specify to federal agencies that the children of noncitizens are not citizens.”
But Trump and his minions aren’t satisfied with denying citizenship to those born within these shores. They’re going after naturalized citizens as well.
Last month, L. Francis Cissna, the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced that his department is forming a task force to go after thousands of naturalized American citizens and strip them of their citizenship. According to the Chicago Sun Times, “The government agency is hiring dozens of lawyers to look for evidence of discrepancies in citizenship applications and refer cases to the Justice Department for denaturalization proceedings. The new task force reverses decades of policy in which denaturalization was rare. The last time the government so actively sought to denaturalize and deport citizens was during the McCarthy period.”
According to a recent article in The Hill, the “Trump administration is sending a clear signal to all naturalized citizens: They are under review and vulnerable.”
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Targeting naturalized citizens is a clear effort to make them second class citizens. The Trump administration is sending a signal that if you weren’t born here — and in some cases, even if you were — you’re not fully American like the rest of us. It’s an obvious attempt at intimidation intended to restrict the civic engagement of immigrants. Even their right to vote will be affected if naturalized citizens, fearing investigations into how they got their citizenship papers, become less likely to register.
Well, you know who I suggest they come after first? Me.
I was born in occupied Japan right after the war in an Army field hospital. My mother was a Red Cross girl, and my father was a lieutenant in the Army. They drove me home from the hospital in an Army jeep.
The American military wasn’t prepared for the birth of children to American soldiers. Occupied Japan had recently been a combat zone, and soldiers were not permitted to bring spouses on their assignments. My mother and father met in the Philippines, got married, dad was transferred, and I became the first American baby born in occupied Japan. The Army didn’t even have birth certificates available in Japan, so I don’t have one. All I have that proves my birth is a Defense Department form discharging my mother from the hospital. The form lists the date of her admission, April 10, 1947, and her discharge five days later. But while they note the admission of a single person, my mother, they list as discharged two Army “dependents:” my mother and me. The Defense Department form shows evidence of my birth by the fact that I was discharged but never admitted to that Army field hospital.
In 1962, the nation of Japan somehow discovered that a number of children were born after the war to soldiers and their wives, and in an act of peculiar exactitude and diplomatic arrogance, they informed the Department of State that Japan was claiming citizenship over these children, including me. The State Department flew into a panic and notified the Army, and the Army located the parents of all of these post-war children and ordered them to immediately get us naturalized as citizens.
One morning in May of 1962, my mother showed up at my junior high school at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I was called out of class to the principal’s office, turned over to my mother, and she drove me without delay to Kansas City, Missouri, where a Federal District Court judge was waiting to swear me in as a United States citizen.
I remember standing in a big, imposing court room with high ceilings looking up at a black robed judge as he told me to raise my right hand and repeat the oath of citizenship after him, pledging to support and defend the Constitution and swearing allegiance to the United States. When he had administered the oath, the judge stepped down from behind his desk and shook my hand and congratulated me on my citizenship.
It was all very peculiar. I hardly needed to be naturalized. I was born to two American citizens, and through my father’s family, I am a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson. The document mailed to me from Washington and dated June 4, 1962 is a “Certificate of Citizenship” issued “pursuant to Section 341 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” Whatever that is. In any case, lacking an official birth certificate, the only evidence I have that I’m a citizen is this certificate from the Department of Immigration and Naturalization. Because I was born in Japan before it had a even a puppet government that had signed treaties with this country, the bureaucracy of our federal government determined that I had to be naturalized.
My papers are not in order. My discharge from the Army field hospital in occupied Japan was lost many years ago. My mother wasn’t required to provide a birth certificate proving that I was her child because she didn’t have one. The only thing that federal judge in Kansas City had to rely on was my mother’s word and my oath. That can hardly be enough, because Trump’s immigration people don’t take anybody’s word for anything, especially not immigrants.
So don’t bother starting your cowardly campaign of terror with recent immigrants to these shores, President Trump. Tell your director of Citizenship and Immigration Services to target me first. Let’s see how far you get challenging the naturalized citizenship of the sixth great grandson of our third president, Thomas Jefferson.