Media Contact

Communications Director Lynette Kalsnes,, 612-274-7785

July 15, 2019

UPDATE July 30, 2019: Mark Esqueda's passport is on its way.

(Minneapolis, Minn.) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on Monday announced it has reached a settlement with the U.S. Secretary of State that declares that a local veteran of two wars is indeed a U.S. citizen.

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.

“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.”

Mark Esqueda 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 any more.

“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 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 had demanded even more proof, violating its own standards and rules. The settlement acknowledges that Mark is a citizen, was born in Texas, and can be issued a passport.

View the initial legal complaint:

The ACLU-MN is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to defend the civil liberties of all Minnesotans. Learn more at


Stay informed

ACLU of Minnesota is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National