Minnesota Marine Mark Esqueda is struggling to prove he's American

Mark Esqueda is being forced to prove that his U.S. birth certificate is as authentic as they come.

Mark Esqueda is being forced to prove that his U.S. birth certificate is as authentic as they come. American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota

Mark Esqueda was not expecting to have trouble getting a passport.

He’s 30 years old, raised in southern Minnesota, and does construction work on grain elevators. He’s served in combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine, and later joined the Minnesota National Guard. According to KSTP, he has received the kind of military clearance only the most trusted American citizen can hold.

But during the past five years, Esqueda has applied twice for a passport, only to be denied as many times. The United States Department of State informed him he had not provided a “preponderance of evidence” to prove he’s a citizen.

This was news to him. Esqueda’s parents are both from Mexico, but he was born in Hidalgo, Texas – a town near the southern border. Because of the circumstances of that birth – the where and the when – he’s held to a higher standard of proof than any other American.

The reason: In 2009, some midwives in border towns admitted to fabricating birth certificates for children who were actually born in Mexico. Esqueda is being asked to prove, essentially, that his birth certificate was not a sham.

Which, to his credit, he has all but done, after being denied twice. Roberto Nuñez, who still runs a small clinic in Hidalgo, told KSTP he delivered Esqueda 30 years ago, and he kept meticulous records of everything. Esqueda has provided those records, including the affidavits of those who were in Hidalgo at the time, and the documented presence of police officer Roberto Domiguez on the day of his birth. Knowing these borderside children would eventually be questioned about their citizenship, Nuñez made sure there was an officer there to witness delivery. 

To Esqueda, this is more than just an inconvenience. To him, it's an insult of the highest order.

“I was born here, raised here, and served my country here,” he said in a statement. “It’s being told I did not belong here.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has taken up his case. The hope, attorney Jenny Gassman-Pines says, is to show Esqueda has already done more than enough to prove himself. She calls him a “true patriot” and a “private person.” 

“It’s been very troubling for him,” she says.

She says they’ll likely file suit within the next few weeks, and they hope to “get this resolved as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, Esqueda just has to wait. Nuñez told KSTP that “maybe a hundred people” he delivered have been challenged about their citizenship. It’s like this for “every” midwife near the border, and every baby they brought into the world.

“As an American, I deserve the same rights as anyone else,” Esqueda said. “I want to make them feel ashamed for having put me or anyone else through this.”