Can you prove you are a citizen? No.

My column Tuesday is about people helping out the victims of  Sunday’s 30-unit apartment fire in Ogden. One of the major sources of help is the Red Cross which, of course, is having trouble encouraging people to come forward because they don’t have documents proving their citizenship, assuming they are citizen.

Which doesn’t matter to the Red Cross. It helps people, simple as that. Isn’t that nice?

The reason it is nice is not everyone has that attitude, as is made clear in this story (click here) in the San Francisco Chronicle about how the ICE people in Homeland Security are hauling off US citizens and detaining them, and deporting them, because it thinks they might, maybe, not be citizens. How many US Citizens will get swept up the next time ICE decides to raid a factory in Top of Utah? I guess we’ll find out.

Or not.

What’s scary is that, because these are civil proceedings, not criminal, none of the usual protections apply. People can simply disappear, no phone call, no lawyer, no nothing.

Yes, I know, some think these legal protections are weeny ways for the guilty to get off on a technicality (like Ollie North did) but generally speaking, they’re designed to make an overreaching government prove it has the right guy in the clink. 

It is called, I believe, limiting the power of government, one of the solid rock tenates of the GOP platform, as I recall.

In this case, with no legal protections, ICE is tossing US citizens into jail, and even deporting them, simply because they were unable to prove they are citizens. Wrong accent? Wrong last name? Wrong place at wrong time? Adios pancho, good luck, and no you can’t call someone to bring your passport down.

It is all very frightening, because it is all happening right here in our American, land of the free and home of the brave as long as you have your birth certificate tattooed onto your forehead, I guess. 

And, no, if you stopped me on the street I couldn’t prove my citizenship. Look through your wallet. Could you? Five bucks says not.

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4 Responses to Can you prove you are a citizen? No.

  1. flatlander100 says:

    We have a history of doing this in the US. During the Depression — not the Bush one, the Hoover one — in LA police raided the streets in some areas of the city, swept up anyone who “looked Mexican” — legal, illegal, foreign born, American born, it made no difference — and sent them all to Mexico. The rationale was to preserve jobs for “real Americans.”

  2. Cathy says:

    I actually do carry my passport. For 5 bucks you could get me a quad shot soy latte from the Daily Rise, LOL

    n.b., I also carry a statement from the driver’s license division saying that I have a valid driver’s license that has never been revoked, suspended or otherwise hindered in any way. That one is a long story, but I think it is directly related to the point of your post here. “Show us your papers…” If this kind of thing is happening to red-haired native Utahns, I can only imagine what’s going on with people who have latino surnames. It’s not just immigration that is the problem.

  3. I think I mentioned an incident in one of my columns a few years back that described how some cruising INS agents detained Eddie Cortez, who was driving without ID. As it turned out Eddie was a US citizen and had left his wallet in his garage when he test-drove a car he was working on. He was literally driving it around the block when he was intercepted by the INS.

    The INS ended up with egg on their faces when it emerged that Eddie Cortez was also the mayor of Pomona, a large city with 150,00 residents.

    To prove who I am to authorities I carry my driver’s license, my ecclesiastical ID, and my badge.

  4. flatlander100 says:

    The Rev. NH’s post above raises issues that have been, over the years, argued with some heat: (a) are you required to identify yourself to a policeman whenever he asks for such identification [i.e. not only when you're involved in an accident, say, or have been arrested.] Can a policeman , to load the question, “not like the way you look” and simply demand that you identify yourself? Do you have to tell him your name, address? Or does he need probable cause to demand that information? Is his demand for your name and address, in short, a kind of “search”? (b) are American citizens required to carry identification with them in public places? [Note: not while driving a car; you are required to carry a license while driving and to produce it when asked.] But just walking around, downtown, are you required to carry ID and are you required to produce it if a policeman asks to see it?

    This spilled over some years ago into a nasty little debate over national identity cards. At the time, those on the right of the right warned that this was the beginning of tyranny, that requiring “government papers” to be carried by all would allow Big Brother to track anyone all the time. [Images of those old WWII era movies, in black and white, of some dark street in Germany and a trench-coated German demanding of the hero or heroine "Your papers, please!" It was presumed at the time that such things could never happen here.] Lately, the ideological ground has shifted some with the immigration debate coming to the fore, some on the right of the right beginning to support a national ID card as a way to control illegal immigration.

    Note: the question is not “is carrying id prudent”? Of course it is. The question is, can it be required that you carry it, and required that you produce it on demand by the police whenever and why ever they might ask for it?

    A knotty question, the more I think about it, and not nearly so easy to answer as it first seemed to me it would be.

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