American Passports Are Useless Now

American Passports Are Useless Now

  • I can go just about anywhere with my German passport.
  • But almost no one wants to let in Americans these days.

Becoming a United States citizen was meaningful to me for a great number of reasons. German by birth, I had come to feel at home in America, and to love it. For all the deep injustices that shape this country, I remained convinced that the United States was more likely than just about any other place in the world to build a thriving, diverse democracy. And when I wrote about the danger that right-wing populists like Donald Trump pose to the American republic, I cherished being able to speak about his assault on our, as opposed to your, values and institutions.

Alongside all these serious reasons, I also had a very practical one: the power of the U.S. passport. It granted access to just about everywhere, and escape from just about anywhere. Which country—Germany or the United States—would be more likely to rescue me if I got stuck in some foreign country in the middle of a perilous political crisis? Would the last plane to evacuate foreigners from Chad or Chile or Canada before that country devolved into civil war be sent by the Bundeswehr or the U.S. Air Force?

U.S. citizenship not only ensured that I could choose to live in New York or San Francisco or any place in between; it also seemed to offer the freedom to roam the world in the assurance that, as my passport’s old-fashioned preamble promises, “the Secretary of State of the United States of America” would see to it that I could “pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need [enjoy] all lawful aid and protection.”