Lawmakers join amicus in Jerusalem passport case

WASHINGTON (JTA) – A bipartisan slate of 58 Congressional members signed a friend of the court brief in a case involving a nine-year-old boy who was born in Jerusalem but was denied a request to have Israel listed on his passport as his place of birth.

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Menachem Zivotofsky was born in western Jerusalem. It has been the policy of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush not to list Israel as his place of birth despite a 2002 federal statute that allows Americans born in Jerusalem to have Israel listed as their birthplace. Instead, his passport lists Jerusalem as his birthplace.

Both his parents are United States citizens.

U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) spearheaded the amicus brief that will be submitted to the United States of Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is expected to be argued in November or December of this year.

The youngster was born shortly after legislation allowing the State Department to use Israel as the place of birth for those born in Jerusalem. Bush and Obama have both claimed that the law infringes upon a president’s authority to make foreign policy.

The case is going ahead after the Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision in March overruled lower court decisions that had contended that the judicial branch does not have authority over this area since it is not the courts’ place to determine foreign policy.

“This is a critical case, one that I am proud to be actively involved in for the sake of the Zivotofsky family and all American families with children born in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Berman (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. 

“Americans citizens born in Jerusalem should have the same right that citizens born anywhere else can enjoy – the right to have their birthplace accurately reflected on their passport,” he said.

Similar amicus briefs have been submitted by such groups as the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers.

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