US military veteran sues after twice being denied a passport

In this April 13, 2019, photo provided by the ACLU of Minnesota, Mark Esqueda poses for a portrait with a photo of him as a U.S.Marine, in Heron Lake, Minn. Esqueda was born in the United States but has been twice denied his request for a passport. He sued the State Department and is asking a federal judge to declare that he is a U.S. citizen. (AP Photo/Lynette Kalsnes, ACLU of Minnesota via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota man and military veteran whose request for a passport was denied twice is now asking a federal court to intervene and declare that he is a U.S. citizen, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The complaint, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, says the U.S. State Department has required information from Mark Esqueda that is burdensome and goes beyond what is legally required. Both of his passport applications were made during President Barack Obama's administration.

Esqueda's lawsuit says that he was born in the U.S. and is entitled to rights of citizenship, including the right to travel freely across U.S. borders. The suit names Secretary of State Michael Pompeo as a defendant.

"To have them question my citizenship is an insult," Esqueda, 30, of Lake Huron, said in a statement. "I was born here, raised here and served my country here."

The State Department says it does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the complaint, Esqueda was born in Hidalgo, Texas, in 1988 and a midwife and police officer were present during his birth. He spent most of his childhood in Minnesota, served in the Marines from 2007 to 2011 and later served in the National Guard. While in the Marines, he served in Iraq and Afghanistan and held a military clearance level of "secret," which the lawsuit says is given only to U.S. citizens and required a thorough background check.

Esqueda applied for a passport in 2012 and included a copy of his birth certificate. The State Department requested additional information, but Esqueda did not have it and his application was denied, the lawsuit says.

He spent the next several years gathering more documentation and applied for a passport again in 2015. This time, he also provided a signed report from the police officer who was at his birth, documentation about his military security clearance and information about government benefits his family received when he was a child.

The complaint says the State Department demanded more information, alleging the midwife at Esqueda's birth was unreliable. Esqueda then submitted five affidavits from friends and family in Hidalgo, but his application was ultimately denied in January 2017.

The lawsuit says Esqueda is concerned that questions about his citizenship will put his other rights in jeopardy. He's asking a judge to declare that he is a U.S. citizen and is entitled to a passport.

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