State Dept. Won't Say if Infant Born in Sudanese Prison Is U.S. Citizen

Terence P. Jeffrey | June 3, 2014 | 12:32am EDT
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Secretary John Kerry (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - The State Department conceded Monday that Daniel Wani—the husband of Meriam Ibrahim, the woman sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith—is a U.S. citizen.

However, the State Department would not say whether Wani and Ibrahim’s 1-week-old daughter and 20-month old son--who are now in jail with their mother--are the children of a U.S. citizen.

“We do have a Privacy Act waiver for Mr. Wani at this time, who I can confirm is a U.S. citizen, as has been reported,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said at Monday’s press briefing.

“We have been engaged with him since June of 2013, so for the last year,” Psaki said. “We’ve been in regular contact with him throughout the trial. Embassy officials most recently met with him on June 2nd, so that is today. And one of our top priorities, as all of you know, is the protection of U.S. citizens overseas, and our continued engagement with him and efforts to assist him as a U.S. citizen are indicative of that commitment.”

If the State Department has “been engaged” with Wani since June 2013 that means it started dealing with him three months before Sudan initially threw his pregnant wife in jail for alleged ‘apostasy” from Islam.

“Daniel was in Khartoum trying to arrange for Meriam and their 20-month-old son, Martin, to live with him in the U.S. when his wife was arrested in September. She was three weeks pregnant with their second child,” the Daily Mail reported last week.

The Daily Mail also reported that the couple married in December 2011 in Sudan “at a Christian service in a chapel which was attended by around 500 people.” asked Psaki: “Now that we publicly know that he’s a U.S. citizen, these children--this one-week-old little girl and this 20-month-old boy--these are the children of a U.S. citizen that are being held by the government of Sudan?

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson ( Starr)

Psaki responded: “Well, without commenting on this particular scenario, I can say that certain requirements must be met for parents to transmit U.S. citizenship to their children, and I can, I would point you to our website and like at the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] requirements for what is required in that case.”


Section 301 of the INA itself says: “The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth: … (g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions 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.”

The Manchester Union Leader, published in the New Hampshire city where Daniel Wani lives, reported on May 17 that Wani moved to the United States sixteen years ago. “Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen since 2005, went to Sudan last summer to arrange for his wife and child to move to New Hampshire, where the Wani brothers immigrated in 1998 after fleeing the war-torn African country,” the paper said.

Under questioning from reporters, the State Department’s Psaki said that the department did not “have the information needed in this case” to establish the citizenship of Daniel Wani’s two young and imprisoned children.

The Daily Mail reported last week—when Ibrahim and Wani’s daughter, Maya, was born in Sudan’s Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison—that Wani said the U.S. Embassy in Sudan had asked him for DNA evidence to prove that his son was his son.

“I thought this would be the one place which would help me, but they told me they didn't have time to do anything,” the Daily Mail quotes Wani as saying. “I was upset because now that I am an American citizen I thought they would help me. I was threatened. They said ‘well your wife isn't American, so we can't help.’ I felt disgusted. My home is in America and still they won't help. It's getting uglier and it's not going in the right direction.”

“I have provided wedding documents and the baby's [son Martin’s] birth certificate, but this is clearly not enough,” Wani said, according to the Daily Mail.

“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 US for testing. It's as if they don't believe a word I say.”

At Monday’s State Department press briefing a reporter asked Psaki: “One point I wanted to clarify was, in the British press, Mr. Wani was quoted as saying that the State Department had asked for DNA testing of the children. Is that correct?”

Psaki responded: “Well, there are certain requirements that I just referenced to you that have long been the case, and they’re available on, are on the INA website. To transmit U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad there must be, among other requirements, a biological relationship between the child and a U.S. citizen, a parent or parents. 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. Again, this is all available on our website and is standard operating procedure in these cases.”

A reporter asked: “Are you saying that those requirements have not been met, is what I see you suggesting?”

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

“The State Department is contesting that these two children are Mr. Wani’s children?” asked.

“We’re not contesting anything. We have standard requirements,” Psaki said.

“You’re forcing him to prove it with DNA?” asked.

“We have standard requirements across the [inaudible],” said Psaki.

“Do you know if you have made an effort with the Sudanese to get the kind of genetic information that you would need from the infant and child?” a reporter asked.

“I don’t have any other details I can share on that case,” Psaki said.

“Has the father offered to provide the genetic inform--whatever it is that you would need to make a determination that is required by the law?” a reporter asked Psaki a moment later.

Psaki said: “All I’m going to say is we don’t have the information needed in this case.”

A reporter asked: “Does that mean that information has been provided and it proved negative, or does that mean that you just don’t have it?"

“I don’t have any other details I can share,” Psaki said.

As explained in 7 Foreign Affairs Manual 1130, the State Department’s procedures for establishing the citizenship of child born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent does not require a DNA test, but allows one.

“Applicants must meet different standards of proof of blood relationship depending on the circumstances of their birth,” says the manual. “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. The Department’s regulations also do not explicitly establish a standard of proof. 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,” says the manual. “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.”

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