State Dept. Won’t Say If It Tried to Verify Marriage, Birth Certificates Before Demanding DNA from U.S. Citizen’s Child Imprisoned in Sudan

June 6, 2014 - 6:37 PM

Daniel Wani and Mariam Ibrahim

Daniel Wani and Mariam Ibrahim (Photo/Gabriel Wani)

(CNSNews.com) - The State Department will not say whether it made any effort to authenticate the marriage and birth certificates that U.S. citizen Daniel Wani says he gave to the U.S. Embassy in Sudan to verify the U.S. citizenship of his son, Martin.

Martin is now in a Sudanese prison along with his one-week-old sister, Maya, because his mother--Daniel’s wife Mariam Ibrahim--will not renounce her Christian faith.

Under U.S. law, the child of a U.S citizen is entitled to U.S. citizenship no matter where he or she is born.

The Immigration and Nationality Act says: “The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth: …a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States … of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years.”

Daniel Wani emigrated from Sudan to New Hampshire in 1998. In 2005, he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen. In December 2011, he reportedly married Mariam Ibrahim at a church in Khartoum, Sudan. Daniel and Mariam’s son, Martin, was reportedly born the next year.

This May 15, when Mariam was eight months pregnant with her and Daniel’s second child, a Sudanese court convicted her of “apostasy” and “adultery”—apostasy because the father who abandoned her at six had been a Muslim and adultery for her relationship with her own husband.

The court sentenced her to be flogged for adultery, and, when she would not renounce her Christian faith, to be hanged for apostasy.

Last week, she gave birth to Maya within the confines of Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison, where she has been incarcerated with son Martin since January.

As of today, the State Department has not recognized Martin and Maya Wani as U.S. citizens—despite the U.S. citizenship of their father.

7 Foreign Affairs Manual 1130 sets out the department’s rules for administering the law that says the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a U.S. citizen.

“The statutes do not specify a standard of proof for persons claiming birth in wedlock to a U.S. citizen parent or out of wedlock to an American mother,” says the manual. “The Department applies the general standard of a preponderance of the evidence.”

“Children born in wedlock are generally presumed to be the issue of that marriage,” the manual says. “This presumption is not determinative in citizenship cases, however, because an actual blood relationship to a U.S. citizen parent is required. If doubt arises that the citizen ‘parent’ is related by blood to the child, the consular officer is expected to investigate carefully. Circumstances that might give rise to such a doubt include: (1) Conception or birth of a child when either of the alleged biological parents was married to another; (2) Naming on the birth certificate, as father and/or mother, person(s) other than the alleged biological parents; and (3) Evidence or indications that the child was conceived at a time when the alleged father had no physical access to the mother.”

On Monday, Daniel Wani signed a Privacy Act waiver, and the State Department admitted for the first time that he was a U.S. citizen. But the department would not admit that his children were citizens.

“Mr. Wani was quoted as saying that the State Department had asked for DNA testing of the children. Is that correct?” a reporter asked at the department’s press briefing.

Well, there are certain requirements that I just referenced to you that have long been the case, and they’re available … on the INA website,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki responded. “U.S. regulation authorizes the Department to request whatever additional evidence it may need to establish the U.S. citizenship. Genetic testing is a useful tool for verifying a biological relationship.”

“We don't have all the information we would need in this case,” Psaki said.

A page on the department’s website explains the department’s policy on whether to go so far as to require DNA testing to establish that the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is indeed the citizen’s child.

“DNA testing is the only biological testing method currently accepted by the Department to establish a biological relationship,” says the department’s website. “However, due to the expense, complexity, and logistical delays inherent in parentage testing, genetic testing generally should be used only in the absence of sufficient other evidence (documentation, photos, etc.) establishing the relationship.”

Last week, Wani told the Daily Mail he had given the State Department his son’s birth certificate and documents related to his wedding.

“I have provided wedding documents and the baby's birth certificate, but this is clearly not enough,” Wani said. “It's very upsetting that they don't believe me. They want me to take a DNA sample in Khartoum, then send it to the U.S. for testing. It's as if they don't believe a word I say.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious-freedom advocacy organization headquartered in the United Kingdom, has been working on Mariam Ibrahim’s cause. Daniel Wani, it told CNSNews.com, provided them with copies of the same marriage certificate and birth certificate he had provided to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum when he was seeking to register his son, Martin, as a U.S. citizen.

CSW provided CNSNews.com with photographic copies of the alleged marriage and birth certificates on Wednesday. CNSNews.com did not authenticate them, but provided them on Thursday morning via email to the State Department press office to see if these were indeed the same documents Wani gave to the U.S. Embassy in Sudan and whether the State Department itself had authenticated them before demanding Wani provide DNA evidence to prove that his children were his children.

Later, at Thursday’s State Department briefing, Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said: “We received your email.”

The alleged marriage certificate says that Daniel Wani and Mariam Ibrahim were married at a Catholic church in the Catholic archdiocese of Khartoum on December 19, 2011. The certificate is signed by a priest and bears the stamp of the Catholic institution where the document says the wedding took place.

The complete exchange that took place at Thursday’s State Department press briefing about the marriage and birth certificates in question is in the video embedded in this story and in the official transcript published by the State Department.

“Did he provide you with the [marriage] certificate?” CNSNews.com asked at one point.

“I’m not aware if he provided us with a certificate or not,” said Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf.

“You do not know whether that’s the case?” CNSNews.com asked.

“I can check,” Harf said. “I have no reason to doubt that he did, but I can check.”

CNSNews.com asked: “So did the State Department try to verify that he was married in the Catholic Church in Khartoum and that that marriage was certified by the Archdiocese of Khartoum?”

“I can check,” Harf said after some back and forth.

The alleged birth certificate for Martin Wani provided by CSW says that Martin was born on November 25th, 2012—which is 11 months after Daniel and Ibrahim were married on December 19, 2011.

It says Martin’s father is Daniel Bicensio Wani and his mother is Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag. It includes the name and signature of the Sudanese government official who presumably issued it.

“Did the State Department attempt to authenticate that birth certificate with the government of Sudan?” CNSNews.com asked.

“So what I am telling you is … I am not going to adjudicate citizenship claims from the podium,” Harf said.

CNSNews.com later asked: “Did Mr. Wani provide you with that birth certificate for his son showing that he was born November 25th, 2012 in Sudan, and that the mother was Mariam Ibrahim? Did he provide you with that birth certificate?”

“I am not going to comment on the specifics of any adjudication that’s happening in this case. I am just not going to comment on what’s happening on the ground,” Harf said.

CNSNews.com also asked: “Is it not a fact that the State Department was not required to demand a DNA test, especially after it had the birth certificate?”

“I think I just made very clear that our consular officers have a responsibility to look at any information they deem necessary to determine U.S. citizenship, which I think we would all argue is important,” said Harf.

“So as of this moment, the State Department is not denying the authenticity of the documents that Mr. Wani provided to the State Department?” CNSNews.com asked.

“I am not commenting on the authenticity one way or the other,” said Harf.

CNSNews.com also asked: “And you won’t say whether the State Department has even attempted to authenticate those documents,” asked CNSNews.com.

“I am not going to get into the specifics of the investigation that’s going on the ground,” said Harf.

“The law does not require a DNA test, correct?” CNSNews.com asked a moment later.

“I am not going to adjudicate a citizenship case,” said Harf.

On Thursday evening, CNSNews.com sent the State Department press office a series of follow-up questions about whether Daniel Wani had in fact provided the department with the marriage and birth certificates CNSNews.com had received from CSW, whether the department had ever tried to verify those certificates and whether the certificates were authentic.

CNSNews.com sent these questions to the State Department press office again on Friday morning and confirmed by phone that they had gone through. CNSNews.com sent them again on Friday afternoon. The State Department did not answer.

Daniel Wani and his lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa Elnour, visited the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum on Monday, as Daniel’s wife and children remained in the Omdurman prison. After their meeting with embassy officials, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Wani and his lawyer spoke with representatives of that organization. According to CSW, Wani and his lawyer said that the State Department officials they spoke with at the embassy “continued to insist on DNA evidence to prove that Martin and Maya are Daniel’s children. They made no offers of assistance.”

On Friday morning, CNSNews.com asked the State Department press office via an email that the office confirmed it received whether it was true that embassy officials had, in their Monday meeting with Daniel Wani “continued to insist on DNA evidence to prove that Martin and Maya are Daniel's children"? CNSNews.com asked this question again on Friday afternoon.

By 6:40 p.m. the State Department had not responded.