In a letter sent today, the ACLU of Colorado demands that the Gypsum Post Office stop discriminating against Latino residents who apply to rent a post office box. According to the ACLU, Latinos living in Gypsum who comply fully with applicable Postal Service regulations are arbitrarily and unjustifiably being denied the right to rent a post office box. Because the small Colorado mountain town provides no home mail delivery, a post office box is necessary for residents who want to receive any written correspondence through the mail.
“In this country, residents have a right to receive mail regardless of their country of origin,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “By discriminating against Gypsum’s Latino residents, the Gypsum Post Office is violating Postal Service regulations as well as the First Amendment right to receive mail.”
Postal Service regulations make it easy to rent a post office box. They require only that an applicant show proof of local residence such as a rental agreement and a photo ID that contains “sufficient information to confirm that the applicant is who he or she claims to be.”
“Our client, Griselda Duarte, complied fully with these regulations when she attempted to renew her postal box rental earlier this year,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace. “While postal employees did not dispute that Ms. Duarte resided in Gypsum, they rejected her two photo IDs, which included a B1/B2 visa issued by the United States government, as well as an official ID issued by the Mexican Federal Election Institute.”
In past years, the ACLU said, the Gypsum Post Office rented a post office 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 “local ID” or “ID from here.” “There is no such requirement in the Postal Service Regulations,” Wallace added.
In April, in response to similar complaints, the ACLU wrote to Gypsum Postal Supervisor Dave Ruechel. The ACLU asked for the criteria post office staff applied to determine whether photo IDS are “sufficient to confirm that the applicant is who he or she claims to be.” The ACLU received no response.
“Because Ms. Duarte fully complied with the applicable rules for renting a post office box, there must be some other reason for rejecting her application,” Silverstein said. “The evidence—and the Post Office’s refusal to explain—strongly suggest that the Gypsum Post Office is engaging in impermissible discrimination.”
According to the letter, an ACLU intern who speaks with a British accent phoned the Gypsum Post Office and asked if her B1/B2 visa would serve as sufficient photo ID to rent a post office box. She was assured it was. Ms. Duarte, however, who speaks with a Mexican accent, was told that her B1/B2 visa was not acceptable confirmation of her identity.
“Three months ago, our letter provided the Gypsum Post Office an opportunity to explain,” Silverstein said. “We received no response. Now we are demanding that Mr. Ruechel tell us within 10 days whether he will grant Ms. Duarte’s application for a post office box and restore her ability to receive written correspondence in the mail.”