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Born Under Suspicion update: Minnesota Marine veteran files lawsuit to prove he's an American citizen

May 09, 2019 06:50 PM

A Marine veteran, born in a Texas border town and now living in Heron Lake, Minnesota, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday to prove he's an American citizen. 

Attorneys representing Mark Esqueda filed suit against the U.S. Department of State, saying the agency has twice denied Esqueda a passport in the last five years.

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"Mark put his life at risk to protect and defend this country as a U.S. Marine. The U.S. Navy, Marines, and Army have all recognized Mark's citizenship, granting him a security clearance available only to U.S. citizens. But despite that, when Mark applied for a U.S. passport and provided the required information to show that he was born here, the State Department twice denied his application," his attorneys wrote in the complaint.

In late April, 5 INVESTIGATES first reported Esqueda's fight to prove his citizenship and obtain a passport. 

Born Under Suspicion: US government challenges a Minnesota Marine's citizenship

"At this point, it's not about me having a passport, it's about them saying I'm not an American," Esqueda said in an interview at the time. "And that for me is just the biggest insult I have ever heard."

Esqueda, 30, was born in the border town of Hidalgo, Texas at a time when some midwives had admitted to falsifying birth records for children actually born in Mexico.

In a 2017 letter, the State Department said the birth attendant listed on Esqueda's birth certificate was not "reliable."

The Department also stated Esqueda's additional records, including secret military clearance documentation, was not enough to prove he was born in the U.S. 

"It's really quite a travesty particularly given his service to our country," said attorney Jenny Gassman-Pines, who filed the lawsuit Thursday on Esqueda's behalf.

"We are hoping it can be addressed quickly because it really isn't a complicated case. He's got more than enough documentation to show that he was born here in the US," Gassman-Pines said. "We're prepared for a fight if that's what it comes to, but we're hoping that this can be resolved quickly."

In late March, 5 INVESTIGATES traveled to Hidalgo and found the midwife who delivered Esqueda in 1988.

Roberto Nunez provided Esqueda's original birth records that not only show he was born in Texas, but that a Hidalgo police officer verified his birth at the Hidalgo Maternity Center.

Those birth records are now being used by Esqueda and his attorneys as evidence in his lawsuit against the State Department. The Greene Espel law firm in Minneapolis and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota are representing Esqueda.

They are asking the government to declare that Esqueda is an American citizen and issue him a U.S. Passport.

"This is the type of case where you would think that the facts speak for themselves, and someone like Mark shouldn't have to bring a lawsuit to enforce his rights," Gassman-Pines said.

When reached for comment Thursday afternoon, a State Department official told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS: "We do not comment on pending litigation."

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Ana Lastra

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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