By Gary Endelman
Until I looked at the new DS-5513 Biographical Questionnaire for a US Passport in the February 24th issue of Federal Register, I did not fully comprehend that extent to which the State Department would go to prevent adopted children from travelling internationally. Now I know.
If you think I protest too much, click on the links above and come to your own conclusion. Is there any way for an adopted child to know if his birth mother received pre- or post-natal medical care? Would an adopted daughter know how her birth mother came to the United States? How many adults who were adopted as infants could describe the circumstances of their birth? Maybe they could recite the dates of medical appointments for a woman they have never met and probably could not contact? Well, if they can climb into the family attic and unearth their baptismal or circumcision records, all is not lost.
All this and more may be required by your friendly Passport Agency . It won’t take long, though; maybe 45 minutes! Got a spare lunch hour? Of course, things might change since comments in opposition to this identity invasion can be submitted for 60 days. Why the reason for all these questions that no adopted and few biological children can answer? Here’s the stated rationale:
“The primary purpose for soliciting this information is to establish citizenship, identity, and eligibility for a U.S. Passport Book or Passport Card,” says the notice. “The information may also be used in connection with issuing other travel documents or evidence of citizenship and in furtherance of the Secretary’s responsibility for the protection of U.S. nationals abroad.”
Now before you write your angry letter or indignant email, consider that the State Department is proposing that the questionnaire only be required of those applicants who “submit citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient or of questionable authenticity.” Conservative estimates are that that only about 74,000 persons per year will need to tear out their hair when trying to complete this form. That’s about 0.5% of passport applicants
Hopefully, the incandescent wrath of an aroused populace, which, as we all know has nothing else to worry about, will cause an astonished State Department to think twice. If not, I hear that the Grand Canyon looks beautiful this time of year. For those who say that you cannot be too careful in these scoundrel times when the need to fight terror is with us late and soon, I close with words worth remembering from someone who knew how to react amid revolutionary fervor: “They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety,” Benjamin Franklin reminds us, “deserve neither liberty nor safety.”