Raul Rodriguez, 51, worked for U.S. Customs for 18 years and last year he was shown his Mexican birth certificate and then fired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in July. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rodriguez discussed how he’d lived in the U.S. for as long as he could remember and it was later that he learned he was born in Matamoros, Mexico.
He worked as a customs office in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and he and his wife, Anita, 54, a Homeland Security immigration officer are now fighting to get him citizenship after he’s lost health insurance and could lose Social Security and retirement benefits.
The latest: U.S. Customs officer loses job and citizenship over his Mexican birth certificate https://t.co/PVLnHH7P6h
— Molly Hennessy-Fiske (@mollyhf) November 27, 2019
“The U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud,” the State Department said Monday in a statement. “This fraud has included instances where midwives and other birth attendants, in addition to legitimately registering births in the United States, have accepted money and filed U.S. birth certificates for babies actually born in Mexico.”
According to the LA Times, 246 birth certificates have been flagged as suspicious this year alone, many submitted by South Texas midwives similar to what happened to Rodriguez. It turns out federal court records showed she was implicated in several other cases before her death in 2005. When the issue first came up Rodriguez asked his father — who lives across the border — and he confirmed that he was sent to live in the Rio Grande Valley when he was five.
Upon hearing the news, the Navy veteran’s 14-year-old daughter said, “So Dad’s an illegal?” the LA Times reports, while their 16-year-old son posted a video on YouTube voicing concerns that his dad would be deported and killed.
From the 1950s through 1990s the government alleges that some midwives and physicians along the border provided U.S. birth certificates to babies born in Mexico, the Washington Post reports. As a result, the State Department during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations denied passports to people who were delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. Midwives are common in the area partly because of the cost of hospital care, Washington Post reports. The publication found that in 2017, 971 people, or 28 percent of those with potentially fraudulent birth certificates, were denied passports, a percentage they found to be smaller than previous years but it’s significantly greater than this year thus far.
Between 1960 and 2008, at least 75 midwives practicing in South Texas were convicted of fraudulent activities, Vox reports, but the problem is they also signed birth certificates for children actually born in the U.S. making the vetting process that much more complex.
The Washington Post reports the Trump administration has cracked down on cases like these after immigration policies like removing legal permanent residents out of the military. With the current political climate and Trump’s focus on building the wall, it seems cases like Rodriguez are finding it increasingly difficult to attain citizenship.
His citizenship application in June of last year was denied for having falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen and having voted illegally. The agency also denied his residency application Oct. 29 and his lawyer filed a motion to reopen the residency case Nov. 12, but he has yet to receive a response, the LA Times reports.
Rodriguez initially joined the agency to help stop the harassment he endured as a brown-skinned boy along the border. When he crossed the border to visit his parents as a child, he said officers would inevitably take him aside for secondary screening, insist he was Mexican and threaten to send him back, he told the publication.
“My goal was to make a change, treat people with respect but do your job,” he said.