AJC Brief Supports Jerusalem Family's U.S. Passport Case

August 1, 2012 – New York – AJC has filed an amicus brief in support of a Jerusalem family seeking to list Israel as their son’s place of birth in his U.S. passport. The case, Zivotofsky v. the Secretary of State, was remanded to the Court of Appeals in March by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The central issue is whether Congress or the President has the sole constitutional prerogative to determine rules on issuing passports,” said AJC General Counsel Marc D. Stern. “The historical record is crystal clear that Congress has an important role to play in determining America’s decision on recognition of foreign governments and in setting passport policy. The appellate court should uphold that constitutional power and reject the Executive Branch’s attempt to exclude Congress from these fields.”

The AJC brief details the history of U.S. law governing passports and recognizing foreign governments. “From the ratification of the Constitution through the present, Congress has consistently exercised legislative authority over passports, and the President has carried out its directives,” states AJC.

In its 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeals can decide whether the President must follow a congressional directive to list “Israel” in the passports of Americans born in Jerusalem.

That rule is in Section 214(d) of the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act. It states that when a U.S. citizen is born in Jerusalem, “the Secretary [of State] shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.”

Based on that legislation, after their son Menachem was born in Jerusalem nine years ago, the Zivotofskys were surprised when the State Department turned down their request to list “Israel” as the country of birth in his passport.

“Congress has deliberated and has concluded that United States citizens born in Jerusalem should be permitted to identify their place of birth as Israel,” concludes AJC. “The President may disagree with that decision, but it falls squarely within long-recognized areas of congressional authority, and infringes no plenary zone of executive authority.”

President George W. Bush, shortly after signing the law, issued a waiver, asserting that the Executive Branch determines relations with foreign countries, and this stance has continued under President Obama.

“An American passport, not the current and future status of Jerusalem, is the core issue in the Zivotofsky case,” said Stern. “There is no question that Section 214(d) is constitutional and should be upheld by the courts.

The AJC brief was prepared by Gregory E. Ostfeld and Keith Shapiro of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Date: 8/1/2012 12:00:00 AM
Copyright 2014/2015 AJC