No Part of Both Worlds

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary It is worse than being stateless. Imagine being born in one country, but never having been registered as having been born there at all. Then, when you are a child or a teenager, you are taken by your parents to another country illegally. You grow up in the second country without documentation, and just as equally terrible you have no documentation from the country you were born in. Without any documentation you cannot prove who you are, you have no way to marry, no way to open a bank account, no way to go back to your country of origin even if you wanted to, and no way of going anywhere in the country you ended up living in. Here is the awful truth—there are many undocumented throughout the United States who were never registered in their own country of origin as ever having been born. This is true in many parts of Mexico and Central America and yes parts of Asia. Because they were never registered as having been born, they cannot get identification cards from their country of origin, they are not entitled to any consular visits or protection since they cannot prove they are citizens, and they cannot be sent back to their country of origin since they were never registered there.

One can ask how such things happen? Well, there are a whole lot of reasons why this was and still is taking place. Their parents might have left their country of origin and failed to register their children before they left. War could have broken out and destroyed all records. Their parents might have been afraid of the authorities and thus did not want to register their children, or because of distance and isolation the parents might have found it impossible to register their children. If all of this sounds ludicrous to us in the developed, First World countries, we must remember so many places in this world are in a state of flux and why so many people have tried to flee or leave their country of origin. Here in the United States, all births are instantly registered and all details of a person’s name, their parents and any other piece of information is carefully recorded. Not all countries do this. My own wife gave me an example of how registration was done in her country of origin. Traditionally, in South Korea, the parents only register their child when he or she survived for the first year. Until then the child did not officially exist, and the authorities at the time did not automatically register the child’s existence. When my wife was born and raised in South Korea, it was still a Third World country. However, it was a very stable Third World country and so registering my wife’s birth was not hard. This is not true for so many other countries.

How many undocumented are what we would call “non-persons?” It remains unknown. In fact, the task is daunting—not only for the U.S. government but also for the governments of so many countries whose nationals are effectively marooned in the United States. At least a stateless person has an identity—a birth certificate or equivalent and some form of identification. Some governments, like the Mexican and governments in Central America, are trying to find their nationals and register them. These governments have established sections where they try to gather information on those who might be nationals of these countries in order to enter them into the official records. This is not an easy thing to do—years elapsed means that it will be harder to establish who these people are and if they are who they say they are. It is still amazing that in this day of age, when so much is known about any individual person, that there are tens of millions of people—in America or elsewhere—who have no official identity at all.

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