Media Contact

Doug Brown, dbrown@aclu-or.org

August 27, 2019

The ACLU of Oregon today filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of an Oregon woman who was denied a passport despite being born in the United States. Maria Soto of White City, Ore. was denied a passport despite submitting her original birth certificate issued by Los Angeles County Hospital and other documentation. Soto is suing the State Department and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo for recognition of her citizenship status and her right to obtain a passport.

Soto was born in 1971 in Los Angeles, California. She was raised in Mexico by her grandparents, and visited the United States frequently as a child and teenager. When she was 18 years old, Soto moved to southern Oregon where she still resides with her husband. Soto petitioned for an immigrant visa for her husband based on her U.S. citizenship status which was granted in 1990, a process that already required her to prove her citizenship to the federal government.

“Ms. Soto is a citizen, but in the eyes of the Trump administration, her birth certificate and other documents are not enough,” said ACLU of Oregon Staff Attorney Leland Baxter-Neal. “Maria Soto is owed a passport, plain and simple.”

Baxter-Neal said cases like Maria Soto’s appear to happening more frequently. Last summer, the Washington Post reported a surge of passport denials for Latino Americans who were born along the border.

Birthright citizenship is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but President Trump has frequently suggested he wanted to end the practice by executive order. However, the president cannot repeal part of the Constitution. Amending the Constitution would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, and also ratification by three-quarters of the states.

“Behind the racist rhetoric and policies coming from the White House is the harmful message that people of color, people who speak a second language, and people who come from immigrant families or communities are not equals in our country or are somehow less American,” said Baxter-Neal. “The idea that all people should be treated fairly and equally is fundamental to our democracy, and we must fight against the Trump administration’s attempts to divide us based on skin color or accents.”

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