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Citizenship lawsuits continue to be filed during pandemic

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Residents striving to prove their citizenship continue filing lawsuits in federal court amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The cases stem from questions about their birth certificates. They are commonly encountered problems along the border, but the solution to one may be rooted in what provoked the government's suspicion in the first place, contends an immigration attorney.

In the last 10 days, Jaime Diez, an immigration attorney, filed three lawsuits in the Brownsville federal courthouse requesting the court recognize the citizenship of the plaintiffs. One of those cases involved a woman by the name of Mariana. She was born in her grandmother's Del Rio home in 1982 with the help of a family friend.

Two years ago, when she was coming back from a trip to Mexico with passport in hand, she was stopped by CBP officers at the Hidalgo Port of Entry, according to the complaint.

"They kept my client detained for eight days – five at the port of entry and three at an immigration detention center," said Diez. Mariana was questioned repeatedly and allegedly told she wasn't born in the U.S.

Diez has defended clients like her many times over the years. He believes border culture a few years ago meant parents with mixed status would register children in both countries to fit their lifestyle.

In those cases, Mariana had multiple birth records in other countries. Her first baptism in Mexico listed her place of birth in Del Rio and had the father's real name included.  The second record had a different name for the father and had Mexico as her birth place. In yet another record, she was registered in Del Rio, Texas.

At first glance, Diez admits it can be confusing. Unlike most cases, there was a twist. Her father was a criminal and fugitive at different times of his life. Diez explained that's why he used a false name in the second birth record. The others were a result of culture and a complicated marriage.  

Diez says the government can look to the father's criminal history for additional proof of citizenship in this case.

"In a case before 1987 you needed to prove ten years that your dad was in the United States. So, let's just imagine for a second that your father was 30 years old. He went to high school here, he went to school. He went to prison for years. He had plenty of evidence to show that he was here the whole time," Diez said.

Citizenship can be granted to children whose birth parents are citizens of the United States, even if the children are born elsewhere.

For now, Mariana and Diez will be waiting. The government still needs to file a response that will likely ask the court to push this case back into immigration proceedings. If that fails, Diez predicts the lawsuit won't have its first hearing until next year.

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