What happens if someone has no doccuments at all?

Let’s say that Mr. Jon Doe was born on a really really poor country. He lost all his documents, and the country is so poor that it does not even have a fingerprint registry system. His birth certificate was lost on a fire, as well as all his other documents. There are no copies of them anywhere in the world, and his family is also gone.

What would be the course of action for this person? He can’t even prove where he was born - or when!

It depends on the circumstances. Are there neighbors or relatives still alive who will swear where he lived as a child and his approximate age? Are their supporting documents, such as church records that say when he was baptized or confirmed? Is there any written evidence that can be associate the person with a date or location, such as school or medical records?

If there really is no documentation around, and nobody to testify that they knew this person as a child, a court may have to decide based on whatever evidence they can find.

Such people do exist in the world, and depending on their situation may be able to survive just fine without any legal documentation whatsoever.

A former German government official, the equivalent of the Secretary of Health in the U.S., was born in Vietnam, and his parents were killed in the war there. He was placed for adoption as a war orphan and adopted by a German couple. Since his actual date of birth was unknown, a date of birth for official purposes was arbitrarily fixed by a German government agency, based on an estimate of how old he appeared to have been at the time of adoption. Similarly, he was given his adoptive parents’ family name and a first name chosen by them. He still knows neither his actual birth date nor the name - if any - given to him as a child by his biological parents, but for official purposes, such as passports, ID cards, age of majority, voting etc., the date fixed by the authority at the time of adoption was (and still is) used.

May I ask where are you from, that you assume a fingerprint registry for babies? Spain only fingerprints babies who need a passport, which certainly isn’t most of them.

The course of action would vary depending on why he needed proof of birth. Would it be for US immigration purposes, for purposes of UK immigration, for his own government? Many countries have no such thing as birth certificates; civil registries (including birth registries) are a relatively new invention, and a country where there has recently been a civil war where many documents have been lost will come up with a way to get people registered, if the government wants them registered. You need to define your hypothetical further, before we can come up with an actual answer.

I was thinking more of something like “What if someone who really has no way to prove his/her identity shows up in the US? No birth certificates, nothing AT ALL?” . A Modern day Kaspar Hauser.

For someone in the US showing up in such circumstances, regardless of age, there would at some point be a court proceeding to officially establish identity, name, age, and whatever particulars are required for official business. A doctor would probably examine the person and give an estimate of age, and an arbitrary “birth date” based on that estimate made part of the record.

There might be circumstances where such a person would need to produce the court documents and do some further explaining, but for most purposes a driver’s license/state ID would serve just fine and not be questioned, and a passport would serve as additional proof of identity.

I think Soon-Yi Previn is an example of this. She was an orphan in Korea when she was adopted by Mia Farrow and Andre Previn in 1978. Her actual birthdate was unknown so she was given a birthdate of October 8, 1970 based on a medical estimate of her age

If he grew up in a really poor country he should be able to hire someone to forge documents.

Depends how he “shows up”

If he walks up to the ICE officer at an airport immigration station, they’ll ask what flight he came in on. When he tells them, that airline gets a big fine and is required to transport him back to wherever they brought him from. At which point he’ll be trapped in arrival hall limbo for life or until some court in that country takes pity on him, prodded by activists who somehow learn of his plight.

Different case:
Assume our guy sneaks across the border like a typical illegal alien/ undocumented migrant and lays low for months or years and then somehow comes to the attention of the authorities, e.g. traffic accident or citation or arrest. I suspect he gets detained and deported to someplace that can’t / won’t fight back. e.g. Belize or Uruguay or something. The fact he’s not from there and doesn’t speak their language won’t matter. In today’s climate, ICE is not going to welcome him and give him US right of residency with a court-appointed birthday.

Well, it depends.

If our guy is discovered after a traffic accident, looks pale enough to be of European descent, and speaks with some variety of American accent he’s far more likely to be able to stay in the US than if he was of a darker color and had a foreign accent.

A recent episode of This American Lifehad a case somewhat like this. A man claimed to be someone named Lanail Hudson, and had a lot of documentation proving that. But it turns out he had actually stolen the identity of the real Lanail Hudson. The fake Lanail Hudson was arrested for identity theft (and maybe some other charges, I don’t remember). They investigated and it appears that he might actually be someone named Leroy Mayers, who was originally from Trinidad or another country, but there’s no definitive proof, so he’s in jail with the name John Doe. He doesn’t like being called John Doe, he insists he’s Lanail Hudson, either because maybe he’d be deported if he admitted who he was and where he was from, or maybe he’s delusional now and truly thinks that he’s Hudson.

So this case isn’t exactly like your question, but he’s someone who had no valid documentation, and the US Government assigned him the name John Doe, and at the very least he’s on the prison registry under that name. They didn’t go into all the details, so I don’t know what new documentation he’s received or will receive when he gets out of jail with his new John Doe name. They didn’t just immediately deport him to Trinidad or some other country just because he’s not from here.

UK “Piano man” was like that. Found at the beach, appeared suicidal, and wouldn’t talk to anyone.

No papers, not even any label on his clothing .(Tags distributor which would be more country specific… same factory sells to many distributors/importers… )

The only clue they had, was that he play piano , and probably staff over-stated (over-estimated) his piano abilities… so the media said “piano virtuoso with amnesia found in UK”.

He did appear european and they thought maybe he was Latvian, Estonian wanting to be refugee ?.. so they accommodated him in some mental institution until he spoke saying “I want to go him… to Deutchland.” and that was correct .

The comment is that if he appeared Ethiopian, with all other circumstances the same, then he might have found himself enroute to, or in Ethiopia rather than a comfortable hospice.

African countries also pass the buck around like that… “Have this guy, he seems to be yours…”

My mother was born in 1908 in the USA and had absolutely no documentary proof of her birth at all. Birth certificates were not general then, and her parents registered the births only of the sons with the church. Along the way, she got a drivers license (which she lied about her age to get in 1923) and there were school records. So there is a paper trail, not just restricted to one building that can burn down.

Technically, I am an “anchor baby” with a birth certificate that I was born in the USA, but no proof that I was born to parents who were legally in the USA. And therefore, my children are anchor babies, as well.

Am I the only one to sense a contradiction here?:rolleyes:

If you were born here then you’re here legally and a native regardless of the status of your parents, therefore so are your children regardless of where they are born so they aren’t “anchors” in that sense of the word.

Haven’t read most of the posts in this thread.

But my girlfriend and her parents immigrated to the US from Thailand shortly after the Vietnam War.

They had no documents. Basically when they got here the government created approximate documents.

They thought my girlfriend looked 3 at the time and her mom told the government workers “she was born when the rice was small” I guess they took that to
mean March 26. :slight_smile:

Way back in the early 60s I had a friend who was completely unknown to the authorities. He made a good living as a mobile farrier driving all around the county in a van.

He was born in a small cottage behind a farm. I went there once (it was derelict then) and you parked in the farmyard, walked up a path alongside a hayfield and the house was hidden in a small wood. His mother had abandoned him with his grandmother who failed to register the birth. He never went to school and his gran taught him to read and write. When he was 13 or 14 he started work with the local blacksmith and learned his trade. The van he drove, nominally belonged to the landlord of the pub where he lived in an upstairs room.

One day, he was about 25 years old, he went to a country fair. There was a horse shoeing competition and foolishly he entered and won, which got his picture (rather the worse for wear after celebrating his win) in the local paper. Unfortunately HMRC were having one of their periodical crackdowns on self employed traders and so he was caught.

I and others helped him with all the documentation and the legal process which did not require a court case, but did require him to pay several thousand in estimated back taxes. I remember taking him to the bank to open his first account and in those days they didn’t even need any proof of identity. The fact that I was a customer and introduced him was sufficient.

Yeah, this does seem a bit odd, but thought provoking. If two anchor babies grow up in the US, get married, and have a kid in the US, does the kid inherit the status of anchor baby? Is that status inherited from generation to generation down the decades or centuries or does it eventually dissipate? This isn’t really critical at the moment since anchor babies are guaranteed US citizenship, but it could become relevant if that changes.

How many generations would have to go by for the family to become real Americans? Think about it this way - what would you think if an irregularity in your ancestors’ immigration documents could jeopardize your citizenship? Say you’re running for office, and your opponent starts digging into your ancestors’ immigration records and starts “illegalizing” them by pointing out irregularities and getting their visas retroactively canceled.

“Aha! Your great-great-grandpa Hans Schmidt stated to the immigration officer at Ellis Island that he was born in Berlin, but he was actually born in Dusseldorf to parents born in Berlin and only moved to Berlin at age 5. Falsification of documents means void visa, therefore illegal immigrant! Now, his wife Brunhilda Schmidt nee Schneider was also illegal because she concealed that she was caught stealing bread at age 13 and received a warning from police. Concealment of criminal record, immigration admission voided! Also, it looks like she signed the visa application form as “Brunhild Schmit”, so her application wasn’t even valid. Stupid half-illiterate German girls <shakes head>. So their son, George Schmidt, was an anchor baby! George would later marry an immigrant, let’s look at her, that Highlander Maude Elspeth McRae - she didn’t reveal during the immigration medical exam that she had had pink eye a month before. Illegal immigrant! So their son was the son of an anchor baby and an illegal immigrant and therefore was an anchor baby too! Look at all these illegal immigrants! I just need a few more and you’ll be an anchor baby. Anchor baby! Ha! Start packing!”

Of course, that is ridiculous. But where do you draw the line?

Where we do now. Born here is a citizen here, period, irrevocably. Regardless of any other facts.

“Anchor baby” sounds like a term some Koch brothers’ focus group came up with.

In the following thread, a poster asked what would happen if someone had no id:

Someone replied, “They’re probably safe to trust with Krell technology, then.”