Congressmen Gomez, Gonzalez, and Espaillat Introduce Bill to Combat Passport Discrimination in the Rio Grande Valley

Washington, D.C. – Congressmen Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) have introduced H.R. 6707, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Improvement Act of 2018, in response to recent reports that the U.S. Department of State has been questioning the citizenship and nationality of U.S. citizens along the U.S.-Mexico Border applying or re-applying for a U.S. passport.

H.R. 6707 would prevent the State Department from judging an individual on the basis of race, ethnicity, or ancestry during the passport application process. Under the bill, the State Department could not deny or flag an individual for citizenship questioning, even in the presence of a midwife birth certificate, without substantial evidence and may not create an argument, solely to question the authenticity of documents, based on the aforementioned criteria.

“Using an American citizen’s ethnic or immigrant background as the basis to deny their passport or revoke a previously issued passport flies in the face of the values that define our nation,” said Congressman Gomez. “Make no mistake: Such discriminatory actions are not business as usual, but part of a broader trend by this administration to question and scrutinize anyone who doesn’t fit their notion of what an American should look like. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Improvement Act will protect American citizens as they travel and help put an end to these abhorrent practices.”

“No U.S. citizen should ever endure questioning about the nature of their birth,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “Every American, especially members of our Armed Forces and veterans, has the right to hold a U.S. Passport to travel abroad and return home without having their ethnic or ancestral background questioned when re-applying for this important federal travel document or when seeking re-entry into our country. Our legislation seeks to stop these inexcusable actions and end undue discrimination against Americans in South Texas and across the country.”

“We are deeply concerned about the State Department’s arbitrary enforcement and use of a policy to question, detain, and even deport U.S. citizens,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “We take these reports very seriously, and our bill would work to ensure that U.S. passport holders and individuals will not be discriminated against when applying to renew their passports or travel abroad.”

The congressmen will continue to advocate for fairness, equal treatment, and transparency for all Americans at every level of government.


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