Griselda Duarte Finally Receives her Post Office Box
After months of attempting to secure a post office box in Gypsum, Colorado, Griselda Duarte walked away with a P.O. Box and key — just days after an ACLU letter demanded that the town post office stop violating Duarte’s First Amendment right to receive mail delivery by denying her the right to rent a post office box.
According to the ACLU, Latinos living in Gypsum were being singled-out for arbitrary and unjustifiable denial of the right to rent a post office box , even though their applications fully complied with postal service regulations. Because the small Colorado mountain town provides no home mail delivery, a post office box is necessary for residents who want to receive written correspondence through the mail.
Under pressure from the ACLU, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has now agreed to direct staff to stop discriminating against Latino residents of Gypsum by granting post office boxes to all people who present acceptable photo and secondary identification. The USPS has now reiterated for Gypsum postal clerks that acceptable photo identifications are those issued by the United States government or a foreign government, including consulate cards, foreign federal election cards, and foreign passports. Given these changes, the Gypsum Post Office has finally accepted Ms. Duarte’s United States issued B1/B2 visa as sufficient identification to support her application for a post office box, after having rejected this very same ID in January.
“We are gratified that the post office in Gypsum has agreed to immediately cease this impermissible discrimination based on nationality,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director. “Clearly, Ms. Duarte had the proper documentation to allow her to access a post office box. Like any other Gypsum resident, she had the First Amendment right to receive written correspondence through the mail, regardless of her national origin.”
Earlier this year, the Gypsum Post Office had rejected two forms of photo identification presented by Ms. Duarte, including a B1/B2 visa issued by the United States government, and an ID issued by the Mexican Federal Election Institute. In past years, though, it had rented a box to Ms. Duarte when the only photo ID she presented was her Mexican voting document. Postal employees provided no explanation for their sudden change of position or their rejection of Ms. Duarte’s application to renew her rental, other than to say that she must provide ID “from here.”
Ms. Duarte, one of the leaders of El Movimiento Hispano de Eagle County, a Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) member organization, contacted the ACLU through CIRC. In April of this year, ACLU attorneys wrote to the postal service on her behalf requesting information about the criteria the Gypsum Post Office relied upon to reject or accept IDs in support of an application for a post office box. The letter was never answered.
Last Thursday, ACLU attorneys sent a second letter to the postal service, this time demanding that the Gypsum Post Office immediately grant Ms. Duarte a post office box and stop discriminating against other Latinos in Gypsum. That day, the USPS agreed that Ms. Duarte had been wrongly denied access to a P.O. box. On Monday afternoon, the USPS also agreed that the Gypsum Post Office had been wrongly denying other Latino residents access to a post office box; residents who had presented valid foreign passports, foreign consulate cards and foreign election cards. The USPS has already provided training to its Gypsum staff and is preparing a directive for the Colorado/Wyoming region clarifying postal regulations related to acceptable photo identifications. The ACLU has agreed to work with post office authorities to create a “non-exhaustive” list of possible documents that foreign-nationals like Ms. Duarte can use as acceptable photo identification.
“Ms. Duarte’s faith in this country’s system of justice and commitment to equality was bolstered when she learned that she and other Latino residents of Gypsum would no longer be singled-out for unfair treatment by the United States government’s postal service simply because they were born in another country,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace. “We appreciate the USPS’s prompt response to our most recent demand letter and we look forward to working together to remedy and prevent this type of discriminatory practice by other local post offices.”
To view the letters between the ACLU and the postal authorities, visit: http://aclu-co.org/case/duarte-v-gypsum-post-office.