UPDATE, 8/1/19: Mark Esqueda finally got his passport!

After years of fighting to get a passport and then having his citizenship questioned, a Minnesota veteran of two wars finally will get one. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has reached a settlement with the U.S. Secretary of State that acknowledges that Mark Esqueda is indeed a U.S. citizen and was born in Texas.

The State Department had twice denied Mark Esqueda’s request for a passport, even though Esqueda was born and raised in the United States, and had earned a level of military clearance only given to citizens. The Heron Lake man served our country as a U.S. Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, and again in the Army National Guard.

Mark said he was so relieved, he was having a hard time believing the news.

“To hear the government say I was right all along, it was eye-opening,” Mark said. “I’m still trying to believe that it’s real. It has truly been what I wanted to happen, to not have my citizenship doubted. I don’t have to miss out on any family events anymore."

“I’m just happy, and I hope I never have to prove myself like this again,” he said, adding the government questioning his citizenship doesn’t change how he feels about the U.S. “I will always love my country, and I’m always proud of my country.”

Before the ACLU of Minnesota sued, Mark had provided the government with his birth certificate, proof of 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 kept demanding even more proof, violating its own standards and rules. 

“We’re thrilled that, through this settlement, the State Department has acknowledged that Mark is a U.S. citizen — something that he has known since his birth in Texas — and finally made it possible for Mark to get a U.S. passport,” said Greene Espel attorney Jenny Gassman-Pines, who worked with the ACLU-MN on Mark’s case. “Our firm has been honored to partner with the ACLU in representing Mark, who is a true American patriot.”

“This was a simple case that should have been handled simply the first time Mark Esqueda applied for a passport,” said Ian Bratlie, staff attorney with the ACLU-MN’s Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project. “This U.S. citizen provided even more proof than the government asked for, and yet was twice denied his ability to travel. That’s a basic right. No one should have their citizenship questioned like this.”