Houston-area immigration attorneys say U.S. citizens denied passports

There’s a new, growing concern for immigration advocates and attorneys.

"What we’re hearing is a surge of denials of passports to people along the border," said Andre Segura, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas. 

He says those denials involve U.S. citizens born near the U.S.-Mexico border either when they first apply or renew.

Segura say before U.S. citizens who were denied would go through the process of submitting additional documentation to prove their citizenship but things appear to be changing.

"Now, they’re seeing the [Trump] administration actually fighting these cases and taking them to trial. That’s a huge issue," he added.

In 2009, the ACLU sued for federal government for this same problem and the case was settled. Segura says they are gathering more details about the claims and evaluating whether they will sue again.

Houston Attorney Jennifer Correro says there’s been a significant increase in these cases again. In 2016, she says she had about 10 clients come for a passport problem. In that year, she says she's seen about 100.

"I don’t think [the Department of State] has changed their policies. But, obviously there has been a change. Where? It’s hard to tell because how can you issue one the first time without a problem and the second time when they go to renew, now there’s a problem," Correro told FOX 26.

She says the government has called in question the citizenship of people delivered by midwife because a small number of them confessed to making fraudulent U.S. birth certificates.

Ruby Powers, also a Houston immigration attorney, says she remembers dealing with these types of cases leading up the 2009 lawsuit by the ACLU.

"From around 1950s to 1990s, a lot of [U.S. citizens] were born to midwifes. It was less expensive. It was easier. It was just more of the cultural norm as well," Powers explained, referring to citizens born near the border.

She and other advocates believe the Trump administration is targeting immigrants and Latinos.

"The [Trump] administration tried to stop DACA. They're ending almost all of the Temporary Protected Status, and now they’re putting an operation focused on denaturalization and questioning a lot of the midwife births," Powers added.

In a statement to Fox News, the U.S department of State says it has not changed its polices or practices for passport applications. They wrote in part:

"The U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud."

They went on to say:

"Applicants who have birth certificates filed by a midwife or other birth attendant suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities, as well as applicants who have both a U.S. and foreign birth certificate, are asked  to provide additional documentation establishing they were born in the United States."

The department added it does not publish how many fraudulent cases they’ve seen to ensure the integrity of the passport.