Birth Certificates and Passports

The other day, President Barack Obama released his long-form birth certificate, supposedly ending the controversy over whether or not he was actually born in Hawaii.  While I find myself opposed to his policies (even after I voted for him!), the whole ‘birther’ exercise seems pointless and stupid.  (And it isn’t over: some are asserting that the long-form birth certificate is itself a forgery, and 70% of the respondents in a poll in the Daily News assert that the release of the certificate does not close the issue.)

For my part, if competent authority saw fit to issue Obama a US passport–that indicates his place of birth as Hawaii–well before he became President, then he’s a US citizen, born in Hawaii.  He spent most of his youth and adolescence outside the US, and was therefore not steeped in American culture, but that doesn’t disqualify him to be President, and nevertheless, we voted for him.

In other news this week, both AlterNet.org and Glenn Beck (weird combination!) came forward with the a draft form proposed by the Department of State for new passport applicants.   The form asks for your immediate relatives (parents, siblings, children), every address you’ve lived at since birth, and every job you’ve held, including your supervisor’s name.

Once upon a time, I was a New York subway conductor.  Every day, I was assigned to a different route.  I guess my ‘supervisor’ would have been the Crew Dispatcher, but I never met him and don’t remember his name.

If you weren’t born at a ‘medical facility,’ there is an additional series of questions, including your mother’s address one year before and after your birth, medical care she received, and other records of your birth.  (But if you were born at a medical facility, I guess you get the short-form birth certificate from your local Department of Vital records and you’re good to go.)

The reports don’t indicate the context in which the form will be used: whether it’s for all applicants, or just those who can’t otherwise document themselves.  The one context where the form would genuinely seem to be useful is for a child of illegal immigrants who is born in the US in someone’s house.  (As much as some may resent it, it’s still the law of the land, and even if the Constitution is changed, those already born here will still be citizens.)

But it will be genuinely be chilling if this form is required for all new passports, and freakish if it is required for renewals.

I guess I’ll find out when my passport runs out in two years.

If I have to fill out the form, I’ll have to find our who the Crew Dispatcher was.

Or can I just dig up a copy of my long-form birth certificate?

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