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How the U.S. Government Is Trying to Unmake Americans

Since 2017, the Trump administration has stripped naturalized Americans of their citizenship and revoked passports at unprecedented levels. Moreover, research shows these actions are most often based on the race or ethnicity of the citizens being targeted.

As the work done by Griselda San Martin, showcased below, makes clear, everyday U.S. citizens, many of whom have long lived trans-border lives, are increasingly at risk of their passports being revoked. Worse yet, the United States is losing its promise of equality for all citizens.

A man in a military uniform facing away from the camera
Diego (not his real name), a veteran, standing in his home, in Brownsville, Texas. Diego was born in Texas and has family on both sides of the U.S. border with Mexico. As an American citizen, crossing back and forth should be routine for him. In recent years, however, Diego has often been pulled aside by U.S. border officials, subjected to additional scrutiny, and told he will be placed in removal proceedings. “I’ve been to a bunch of places and I always traveled with my military ID and my orders,” he says. “But now they’re questioning me.” © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
Hands on a military uniform
Detail of Diego’s military uniform from when he served in Afghanistan. © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
A woman sitting at a desk
Mary lives in Brownsville, Texas, close to the Mexico border. Mary was born in Mexico and is now a U.S. citizen, and she has been a midwife for 46 years. She says that while she used to handle about 30 deliveries per month, nowadays business is slow. She believes that the hostile environment near the border is at least a partial explanation. © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
A woman sitting on a bed
Maria (not her real name) sits for a portrait in her aunt and uncle’s house, in Brownsville, Texas. Although she was born in the U.S., authorities have tried to deny her passport. “Ever since I turned 18, I voted,” she says, explaining her devotion to the United States. “I really love the U.S. I feel safe here. I am a U.S. citizen.” © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
A tree next to a section of the border wall separating the United States and Mexico
A section of the border wall separating the United States and Mexico, in Brownsville, Texas. © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
A woman sitting on a bed
Raquel poses for a portrait in her daughters’ bedroom in Matamoros, Mexico, which is on the other side of the section of the border wall found in Brownsville, Texas. Because border officials have tried to question Raquel’s citizenship, her daughters have to cross the border every day if they want to stay enrolled in their school while also living with their mother. © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
Two women sitting on a bench outside
Raquel’s daughters pose for a portrait outside their school, in Brownsville, Texas. © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
Jaime Diez stands in front of the Federal Courthouse in Brownsville, Texas
Attorney Jaime Diez stands in front of Brownsville’s Federal Courthouse, in downtown Brownsville, Texas. “I’ve been doing passport cases for almost 10 years,” he says. “People ask me if it's worse, now that we have an administration that is tougher on immigrants, and I think that, yeah, it is worse. Now, with the Trump Administration, I think [nativism within government agencies] is even stronger, because I believe they allow these ideas to be openly said.” © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
A man in a cowboy hat sitting in an armchair
Alvaro (not his real name) poses with a cowboy hat and a U.S. flag in his home, in Los Fresnos, which is near Brownsville, Texas. Under the Trump administration, Alvaro’s mother was detained and interrogated by border officials—who coerced her into falsely claiming Alvaro was born in Mexico—and his wife’s green card was rejected. Despite these traumas and indignities, Alvaro still loves his country: “We’re all one family—that’s what makes this country great,” he says. “I have faith in my country.” © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
A finger pointing to a framed class photo
Alvaro’s young daughter points to him in a class picture that was taken when he was a student of an elementary school in Los Fresnos, Texas. © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations
The entrance sign for Port Isabel Detention Center, in Los Fresnos, Texas
The entrance of Port Isabel Detention Center, in Los Fresnos, Texas, where some U.S. citizens have been held, interrogated, and accused of using falsified birth records. © Griselda San Martin for the Open Society Foundations

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