Sanchez v. United States Sec'y of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CIVIL ACTION NO. H-11-2084

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtLee H. Rosenthal
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. H-11-2084
Decision Date24 January 2012




Dated: January 24, 2012


The petitioner, David Israel Sanchez, has filed a petition for a writ of mandamus under 28 U.S.C. § 1361. Sanchez challenges the decision of the Secretary of State to deny his passport application and seeks a declaration that he is a United States national entitled to a passport. The respondents moved to dismiss the petition in part. (Docket Entry No. 8). Sanchez, with the assistance of counsel, has responded, (Docket Entry No. 10), and the respondents have filed a reply, (Docket Entry No. 11). After careful review of the motion, response, and reply; the record; and the applicable law, this court grants the respondents' motion for the reasons explained below.

I. Background

Sanchez sues Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of the United States Department of State, and Benita Jones-Burnett, Acting Director of the Charleston Passport Center. Sanchez alleges that he was born on March 14, 1988 in Brownsville, Texas. He alleges that on March 15, 1988, Vicenta Vitte, a midwife, signed the birth certificate as the birth attendant, and that on April 19, 1988, Vitte filed the certificate with the local registrar in Cameron County, Texas. (Docket Entry No. 1, Complaint, Ex. A, p. 1).

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Sanchez applied for a United States passport on July 31, 2005. (Docket Entry No. 8, Respondent's Motion to Dismiss, Ex. 1, p. 1). The State Department denied the application on September 15, 2005, stating as follows:

The records of this office indicate that on July 31, 2005 you executed a passport application at the Houston Passport Agency in Houston, Texas. As proof of United States citizenship, you submitted a City of Brownsville, Texas birth certificate indicating you were born on March 14, 1988 in Brownsville, Texas. Due to your noninstitutional birth filed by a known midwife, Vicenta A. Vitte, suspected of filing fraudulent Texas birth records, we requested verification of the birth certification through Texas Department of Health. They indicated your birth record had been flagged because of evidence that you were born in Mexico. A Mexican birth registration was located stating, Israel Sanchez Reyes was born on October 19, 1987 in [] Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Your father, Marcelino Sanchez and your mother, Elizabeth Reyes Brito, registered your birth on October 21, 1987. A copy of the Mexican birth certificate is enclosed. Due to the above information and the lack of secondary evidence, the Houston Passport Agency has no recourse but to deny your application for a passport. The local office Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services, may be able to assist you by providing information about your travel documents or procedures for possible naturalization as a United States citizen. Once you acquire United States citizenship, you may execute another application for a United States passport. . . .


Sanchez states that the trouble with his birth certificate began when the State Registrar received documents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) indicating that the information on the certificate was false. Based on the information from INS, on June 27, 2001, the State Registrar attached an addendum to the Delayed Certificate of Birth for Sanchez. The State of Texas denied issuance of a certified copy of Sanchez's birth certificate. On January 31, 2006, the Texas Department of Health held a hearing on this denial. On March 21, 2006, a hearing examiner for the Texas Department of Health ordered that the addendum to Sanchez's Texas birth certificate

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be removed because the conflicting Mexican birth record was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence. According to Sanchez, the examiner ordered the State Registrar to issue Sanchez a certified copy of his Texas birth certificate. Sanchez alleges that the State of Texas determined that he was born in Brownsville, Texas, and that this decision is binding on federal authorities.

Sanchez again filed for a United States passport on February 26, 2010. On July 26, 2010, the State Department issued a letter requesting more information. On July 28 and October 22, 2010, Sanchez provided the State Department with supplemental information to support his claim of birth in the United States. Sanchez submitted the March 2006 decision from the Texas Department of Health; a vaccination record and accompanying letter from Dr. Fernandez, a Mexican doctor, stating that he administered Sanchez's vaccinations; and a letter from a medical laboratory in Brownsville, Texas, indicating that Sanchez's mother had prenatal lab work done in Brownsville on February 13, 1988, one month before giving birth. (Docket Entry No. 1, Complaint, pp. 7-8).

On March 4, 2011, the State Department issued a letter again denying Sanchez's application for a United States Passport, stating as follows:

The records of this office indicate that you executed a passport application on February 26, 2010 at the Fairbanks Station Post Office, Houston, Texas. In support of your claim of birth in the United States, you submitted a birth certificate issued by the Bureau of Vital Statistics State of Texas. The certificate indicates you were born on March 14, 1988 in Brownsville, Texas. Your birth record was filed on April 18, 1988 by a birth attendant. As explained in our previous letter, this birth attendant is suspected of submitting false birth records. An individual applying for a United States passport has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence through documentary evidence his or her United States citizenship or nationality(22 C.F.R. 51.40, 51.41). Because your birth record was filed by a birth attendant who the Department has reason to believe is not reliable, you were asked to provide supplementary documentation to support your claim of birth in the United States. In response to the Department's letter seat on July 26, 2010, you

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provided the Department with supplemental information on July 28, 2010 and again on October 22, 2010.
The documentation you provided to support your claim of birth in the United States is not sufficient to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that you were born in the United States. There exists a foreign birth record indicating that your birth occurred in Mexico. Therefore, we are unable to determine that you are entitled to a passport and your application is denied.

(Docket Entry No. 1, Complaint, Ex. D, p. 1).

Sanchez filed the current suit seeking review of adverse agency action. As the basis for this court's jurisdiction, Sanchez relies on the following statutes:

(1) the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1361;
(2) the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651;
(3) federal-question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331;
(4) the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201;
(5) the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 702 et seq.;
(6) 22 U.S.C. § 211a et seq., governing the State Department's authority to grant, issue and verify passports; and
(7) 8 U.S.C. § 1503.

Sanchez also asserts that his case presents issues under the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV, § 1.

The respondents move for partial dismissal of Sanchez's complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), on the basis that several of Sanchez's statutory claims fail for want of subject-matter jurisdiction, and that other parts of his complaint fail to state a claim upon

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which relief can be granted. The respondents concede that Sanchez has stated a claim for United States citizenship under 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a). The respondents argue that this court lacks jurisdiction to consider the remaining alleged statutory violations and that the complaint fails to state a Fifth Amendment due process violation. The arguments are addressed below.

II. The Legal Standard

A. Federal Rule 12(b)(1)

The court must dismiss a case when the plaintiff fails to establish subject-matter jurisdiction. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1). "It is incumbent on all federal courts to dismiss an action whenever it appears that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking." Stockman v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir. 1998). A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case. Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum. Stockman, 138 F.3d at 151.

B. Federal Rule 12(b)(6)

A court may dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must "accept the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 529 (5th Cir. 2004). "To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint 'does not need detailed...

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