Veteran Fights for Right to be Recognized as US Citizen
WESLACO – A man born in the Rio Grande Valley is fighting for the right to be recognized as a U.S. citizen.
He says he's been in legal limbo for eight years. He's now suing the federal government to declare him a citizen.
For privacy reasons, we'll refer to the man as Peter.
He was born in Brownsville through a midwife. His parents, who are Mexican nationals, took him back to Mexico and raised him in a city near Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
It's a border upbringing similar to many who share ties with those across the international boundary.
His parents registered him as being born in Mexico due to medical reason, according to Peter.
When he turned 18, he came to the U.S.
He served a tour of duty in Afghanistan under the Army and later became a National Guardsman.
In 2011, he petitioned for his mother.
In 2013, he married and brought his wife over from Mexico.
During this time, when Peter or his mother would cross into Mexico, they would be pulled into secondary inspection at the ports of entry.
Peter says, "My mom would cross and they would detain her. Ma'am tell us the truth. We know you illegally paid for that certificate. We know he was born in Mexico. Tell us the truth. My mom would say, no, no. I gave birth in the U.S."
In 2014, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services found Peter's Mexican birth certificate.
They told him they intended to deny the request to bring his wife into the U.S.
Eventually though, she was approved.
The secondary inspections stopped for a while, until last year; that's when Peter was stopped and interrogated for hours.
"I was detained for 15 hours. They told me that the State Department was questioning my citizenship. It was kind of weird because I had never applied for a passport," he recalls.
He wasn't sure what would happen next.
"They were telling me they were calling their supervisors to decide if I would go to immigration detention center. They were mentioning Bayview," he said.
This all happened in early 2018. After several months, he submitted a passport application.
Jaime Diez, Peter's attorney, believes USCIS shared their discovery of his Mexican birth certificate with the Department of State years prior to his application in 2018.
"It is not unusual because now my experience has been that the agencies communicate between them without letting the person know, and then they don't correct their records," Diez explains.
Diez believes the Department of State was not told Peter had cleared the USCIS investigation, because the department had started its own probe.
For Peter, it resulted in yet another time he's had to prove he's from the U.S.
"You cannot just ask a person to prove 20 different times the same issue," said Diez, referring to the times he had to prove his citizenship with the Army, National Guard and USCIS.
"Because, what happens if you have one agency says yes, and another says no?"
Peter says being detained is emotionally trying.
"It's really traumatic, because I'm a disabled veteran and I have PTSD," he explains.
He doesn't want to go through another similar experience. He's asking the federal government to declare him a U.S. citizen and issue a passport.
Diez says he believes the Department of State is getting ready to deny his passport.
They sent Peter what Diez refers to as a 'midwife package' that asked him to prove he was born in the U.S., yet again.
Normally, the government cannot comment on ongoing lawsuits.
However, we've asked for a statement on background on this story from the Department of State and USCIS.
We'll update the story if and when a statement is shared with CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
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