Lawsuit alleges US passport procedure discriminates against Mexican-Americans

[JURIST] A group of American citizens from Texas' Rio Grande Valley filed suit [complaint, PDF] against the US Department of State (DOS) [official website; JURIST news archive] Tuesday, alleging they had been denied passports because they are of Mexican descent and were delivered by midwives. According to a complaint filed [ACLU press release] in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website], the DOS effectively denies passport applications by "demand[ing] that these passport applicants furnish a litany of additional documents to substantiate their citizenship and qualification for a passport" and later arbitrarily deeming the applications abandoned despite proof of citizenship. Robin Goldfaden, an attorney for the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project [advocacy website], commented:

Based on blanket race-based suspicion, the State Department is sending this select group of passport applicants on a veritable scavenger hunt and then refusing to issue them passports without a fair examination of their individual cases.
Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the alleged practice violates the Administrative Procedure Act [text], as well as the Constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. AP has more. The Brownsville Herald has local coverage.

The number of passport applications has soared since new border-crossing requirements were enacted [JURIST report] as part of the the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 [text, PDF]. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) [DHS backgrounder] established by that law requires American citizens to show a passport when re-entering the US, rather than simply declaring their citizenship orally.

 

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