The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on Thursday, May 9, filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, asking the court to declare a U.S. veteran a citizen and grant him a passport.

The State Department has twice denied Mark Esqueda’s request for a passport, even though Esqueda was born and raised in the United States. The southern Minnesota man served our country as a U.S. Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, and again in the Army National Guard. In the military, he earned the second-highest level of clearance called “secret,” which is only given to U.S. citizens.

What the government has demanded as evidence goes well beyond its own requirements to prove citizenship.

The government’s standard for proof in these passport cases is a preponderance of the evidence, which just means something is more likely than not. Mark has already provided his birth certificate, proof of his secret military clearance, affidavits from witnesses who saw his pregnant mother living in Texas near the time of his birth, and the signature of a police officer who was witness to his birth. The government is demanding even more proof, violating its own standards and rules.

The national ACLU sued the government in 2008 for similar behavior and won. In a 2009 settlement, the State Department agreed to new procedures to ensure the fair and prompt review of these U.S. passport applications; it also agreed it would not deny passports to eligible citizens. Lawyers along the border say they’re seeing an increasing number of people denied passports who were delivered by midwives there, even though that’s a common birthing practice in the region.

 

Attorney(s)

Teresa Nelson and Ian Bratlie, ACLU-MN; Jenny Gassman-Pines, Greene Espel

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Greene Espel

Date filed

May 9, 2019

Court

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA

Status

Filed

Case number

0:19-cv-01236

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