How to report Trump’s move against Texas Latinos who have U.S. birth certificates?

August 31, 2018
Category: Newsletters

First he disparaged Mexicans as rapists. Then President Donald Trump turned to Muslims, to implicit encouragement of police to rough up suspects, to ambushing and arresting migrants at scheduled court appearances or immigration check-ins, and to having U.S. agents rip migrant children from their parents.

Now reporters are covering a new phase of the Trump administration: denying passports to Latinos with U.S. birth certificates.

The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff profiled a 40-year-old man he identified only as Juan, an Army vet, Border Patrol cadet and now a Texas prison guard. Juan’s citizenship is suddenly in question after he sought to renew his passport — and the State Department said it didn’t believe he was a citizen.

Sieff found a dramatic shift under Trump, with some passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates “being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States.”

Vox’s Dara Lind said Trump is, as in other instances, using existing executive branch powers with much less restraint than predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Under Trump's two immediate predecessors, the United States did deny some passports to people born to midwives in the Rio Grande Valley caught falsifying documents of babies born in Mexico. The problem: even those midwives likely delivered the vast majority of “U.S. babies” in the United States. A 2009 settlement seemed to quell any issue, at least until Trump took power.

The people targeted by the administration, Lind writes, are "the ones least likely to have the resources to overcome harassment, or the support to call for an end to the practice."

The new documents requested by Washington — a baptismal certificate, rental agreements of parents when a person was a baby, evidence of a mother’s prenatal care — seem daunting. “If this is what's required to prove U.S. citizenship,” tweeted computational journalist Dan Nguyen, “pretty sure the majority of Americans would fail.”

Samantha Power, a former journalist and human rights scholar before becoming U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Obama, put it this way:

“These actions (denying passports, stripping citizenship, rendering people stateless) are what you see in countries notorious for perpetrating abuses against their own people, especially religious and ethnic minorities.

"Can it happen here?" Power asks. "It can and is.”

Readers, are you seeing stories like these in your communities? Reporters and editors, if so, how are you covering them? Let me know at

Quick hits

ARRESTED: A California man who had threatened to shoot Boston Globe employees in the head. The FBI said Robert D. Chain had called the paper the “enemy of the people,” echoing a phrase used against journalists by President Trump. Chain made 14 threatening calls after the newspaper’s editorial page announced a coordinated nationwide effort to preserve freedom of the press. “Making threats is not a prank, it’s a federal crime," said Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office.

REPORTS, EXAGGERATED: The Associated Press asked members to remove a story about the death of the film director Costa Gavras. Turns out, the “news” came from a fake Greek Culture Ministry Twitter account — and the director was alive and spoke on Greek state television on Thursday. He’s perhaps best known in America for “Missing,” with Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon, and also directed classics like “Z” and “State of Siege.”

IT’S NOT THE POLITICS: Why doesn’t Google rank right-wing websites higher? They don’t have the resources to report as much as mainstream rivals, says The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal.

‘MY LIFE IS THREATENED’: That’s how an outgoing state lawmaker described her situation when she called 911 on Miami Herald reporter Sarah Blaskey. The journalist wanted to ask her a question. Arriving police made no arrests. “Asking a question is not a threat,” said Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, the Herald’s executive editor.

VALIDATION: A few years ago, Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley wrote a thank-you column to Aretha Franklin on reports of her retirement. She later bumped into Franklin, who not only read the column but said it brought her to tears. “And I was done," Riley recalls. By Poynter’s Kristen Hare.

JOBS: Business Insider is hiring 47 people as it refocuses on business and moves several other topics — sports, defense and science — to Global editor in chief Nicholas Carlson said there is no set timetable to complete the hires. “We want good storytellers,” he tells Chris Roush.

WHO NEEDS COPY EDITORS?: Courtesy of the Burlington (Iowa) Hawk Eye: (h/t Ron Fields)

What we're reading

IS PRISON LABOR LEGAL?: Prisoners in 17 states are on hunger strikes and work stoppages to protest dilapidated facilities, harsh sentences and the questionable practice of putting inmates to work. The labor — fighting wildfires, packaging Starbucks coffee, producing lingerie, taking customer service calls — pays little or nothing. “This practice may run afoul of several U.S. legal commitments — including the 13th Amendment ending slavery — and even violates voluntary codes of conduct of some of the companies involved,” writes Ruben J. Garcia for The Conversation.

CHATBOT KINGMAKERS?: Chatbots seem so simple now. “How can I help you?” But souped-up, intelligent chatbots could influence elections in the future, MIT Technology Review warns.

QUIET: Looking for better listeners, thinkers, networkers? Compassionate leaders? Consider an introvert, says TIME's Carly Breit.


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Have a great Friday and Labor Day weekend. Catch up with you on Tuesday.