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ACLU-MN Communications Director Lynette Kalsnes,, o: 612-274-7785, c: 312-720-4147 

May 9, 2019

(Minneapolis, Minn.) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota Thursday 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.

“Greene Espel is proud to be partnering with the ACLU of Minnesota to represent Mark and enforce his rights as a U.S. citizen,” said Greene Espel attorney Jenny Gassman-Pines. “Mark was born here and bravely served our country in the military. What the government has demanded from Mark goes well beyond its own requirements to prove his citizenship. We look forward to holding the government accountable and getting Mark the recognition he deserves as a citizen and patriot.”

“I truly believe that there is no better country than the U.S.,” Esqueda said. “That’s why I felt serving was my duty – I just had­ to give back.”

“To have them question my citizenship is an insult,” he said. “I was born here, raised here and served my country here. It’s being told I did not belong here.”

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.

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