U.S. Lawmakers to Tillerson: Allow Americans Born in Jerusalem to List Israel as Birthplace

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, 52 members of Congress wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to change a policy the United States adopted several years ago of refusing to recognize Americans born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel.

“We write to urge you to revise the State Department’s policy regarding the birthplace designation on passports and consular reports of birth abroad for American citizens born in Jerusalem,” the letter, a copy of which was acquired by the Washington Free Beacon, notes. “We ask that you change the policy to permit Jerusalem-born Americans to have “Israel” listed as their birthplace on their passports and consular reports of birth abroad.”

Republican Congressmen, Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH), joint chairs of the newly-launched conservative pro-Israel caucus, the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, penned the letter.

“Allowing American citizens born in Jerusalem the option to list Israel as their birthplace is a simple adjustment that will honor the wishes of thousands of citizens,” DeSantis said, according to Sunshine State News. “This change would be consistent with State Department guidelines pertaining to birthplace designations in other areas and I urge Secretary Tillerson to revise their policy immediately.”

The letter further notes that “It is not unusual for the State Department to honor the personal preferences of American citizens born abroad when it comes to how their birthplaces are designated on their passports.”

In 2015, the Supreme Court sided with the Obama White House, and in opposition to Congress, ruling that Americans born in Jerusalem may not list Israel as their birthplace on passports. The 6-3 ruling reportedly said that Congress overstepped its bounds when it approved the passport law 13 years prior, in 2002.

The letter also notes the hypocrisy inherent in the fact that the State Department allows individuals born within “sovereign Israel after 1948” — the year Israel was established — to leave out the country altogether if they do “not want to identify with Israel,” or allows individuals born within Israel’s borders prior to 1948 to write “Palestine.

According to the Times of Israel, The Middle East Forum welcomed the letter and issued a statement. Gregg Roman, MEF’s director, said, “The previous decision to ignore the law passed by Congress was illogical and illegitimate.” He added that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would constitute “a relatively small and easy step” by the Trump administration “to demonstrate its political will toward Israel with few diplomatic repercussions.”

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