ACLU Sues State Department for Passport Requirement Discrimination
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For most U.S. citizens, applying for an American passport is a relatively simple and straightforward process that results in the granting of a passport by the U.S. State Department. For hundreds, if not thousands, of American citizens in the Southwestern United States, however, the process has been anything but simple. The U.S. government in recent months has begun targeting citizens who are — or are perceived by the U.S. government to be — of Mexican descent, and whose births in states along the U.S.-Mexico border were attended to by midwives in a home or local clinic. When applying for American passports, U.S. citizens who happen to fall into these two innocent categories are being subjected to arbitrary and unconstitutional demands to furnish a litany of documents not normally required as a means of substantiating their citizenship and qualification for a passport. The U.S. State Department, in many cases, is then simply abandoning these citizens’ applications and classifying them as "filed without action" without giving any kind of a stated reason for doing so — despite substantial evidence having been submitted proving the applicants’ U.S. citizenship. The passport applications of these citizens are essentially denied as a result, and the citizens are left with little recourse other than to file a lawsuit to re-apply, pay yet another fee and face the very same treatment all over again.
In the face of this policy, the national ACLU along with the ACLU of Texas, Hogan & Hartson LLP, and Lisa Brodyaga with Refugio del Rio Grande, Inc., filed a lawsuit September 9, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas arguing that the way in which the U.S. State Department is deciding whether to issue passports to American citizens is a violation of both the due process and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution, as well as a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.