Monday, August 11, 2008

The Epistemology of Race and Citizenship

The State Department absent proof in individual cases, has been using the possibility of fraud in a particular region to deny citizenship documents to Mexican-Americans born in this country.

According to an article by Miriam Jordan in today's Wall Street Journal, Juan Aranda's
birth certificate says he was delivered unto Weslaco 38 years ago, and church records say he was baptized here soon after. School files list him as a student in the local district from kindergarten through high school, and voter rolls show he votes for president here. But to the U.S. State Department, all that black and white looks a lot like gray. It recently refused to issue Mr. Aranda a passport; the government isn't sure he's an American.
While the possibility of fraud may require vigilance in certain areas of the country among US Citizenship and Immigration Service agents, that is different from categorically questioning the birth certificates of all comers born in a certain region, especially when they present other documentation.

Any epistemologist knows there is no such thing as metaphysical certainty of anything. Either the US government must prove in individual cases that the documents it is receiving are fraudulent or they must grant the appropriate citizenship documents. Anything else is a violation of due process as well as the equal protection clause.
(Thanks to my colleague at UCLA Joshua Dienstag for sending this my way.)

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