Submitted: January 14, 2019
from United States District Court for the Northern District
of Iowa - Cedar Rapids
LOKEN, GRASZ, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Torres was convicted of charges related to the unlawful
acquisition and sale of identity documents. See 18
U.S.C. §§ 1028(a)(3), 1028A(a)(1). One of those
items was a United States passport card, a wallet-sized
document that permits American nationals to travel by land or
sea between the United States and a limited number of foreign
countries. See 22 C.F.R. § 51.3(e). She argues
that possession of a passport card did not justify enhancing
her sentence for "fraudulently obtain[ing] or us[ing] .
. . a United States passport." U.S.S.G. §
2L2.1(b)(5)(A). Her theory is that the phrase "a United
States passport" refers only to a passport book. The
district court disagreed, and so do we.
case poses a seemingly straightforward question: is a
passport card "a United States passport" under
section 2L2.1(b)(5)(A)? To answer this question, we apply
"basic rules" of "statutory"
interpretation, including the ordinary-meaning rule, which
requires us to give undefined words and phrases their plain
and ordinary meaning. United States v. Hackman, 630
F.3d 1078, 1083 (8th Cir. 2011).
makes this case unusual, however, is that the
ordinary meaning of the phrase "United States
passport" is intertwined with its technical
legal meaning, because a passport is itself a legal
document. To quote one representative definition, a passport
is an "official document issued by a government" to
prospective travelers. The American Heritage Dictionary
of the English Language 1289 (5th ed. 2011); see
also Webster's Third New International Dictionary
1652 (2002) (explaining that a passport is "a formal
document issued by a competent officer . . . of a
country"). So a United States passport, then,
must refer to any official document that the United States
government has designated as a passport and issues to
includes passport cards. One federal regulation, for example,
identifies passport cards as one of five "[t]ypes of
passports" and explains that they are "issued . . .
on the same basis" as "regular passports." 22
C.F.R. § 51.3(e). A related regulation broadly defines a
passport as "a travel document regardless of
format issued under the authority of the Secretary of
State attesting to the identity and nationality of the
bearer." Id. § 51.1 (emphasis added). A
passport card neatly fits this definition because it is
inscribed with, among other things, a photograph of the
bearer, a statement of the bearer's nationality, and the
words "passport card" and "United States
Department of State." See Passport Card,
(last visited April 8, 2019). In short, despite its different
physical appearance, a passport card is as much a
"United States passport" as its blue-covered
conclusion should come as little surprise to anyone who has
recently applied for either a regular passport book or a
passport card. The instructions to the Department of
State's current application, which can be used to apply
for either or both, explain that a "passport card is
a U.S. passport issued in card format." U.S.
Dep't of State, U.S. Passport Application 3 (June 2016)
(emphasis added), available at
visited April 8, 2019). The instructions further state that a
passport card, "[l]ike the traditional U.S. passport
book . . ., reflects the bearer's origin, identity, and
nationality, and is subject to existing passport laws and
regulations." Id. And the Department's
publicly available website offers similar information,
explaining that "[t]he passport book and passport card
are both U.S. passports." Passport Card,
(last visited April 8, 2019).
arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive. She contends that
the Guidelines must exclude passport cards because they did
not exist when the Sentencing Commission first implemented
section 2L2.1(b)(5)(A). The problem with this argument,
however, is that nothing about the use of the phrase "a
United States passport" suggests a limited class of
then-existing passports. In fact, adoption of such a broad
phrase suggests that it includes any form of
passport that the Department of State decides to issue on
behalf of the United States.
also urges us to invoke the rule of lenity, but this canon
applies only when the relevant language is ambiguous and
ordinary interpretive tools "reveal no satisfactory
construction." Lockhart v. United States, 136
S.Ct. 958, 968 (2016). As the Fifth Circuit recently
explained when confronted with a near-identical question, the
phrase "United States passport" "is not
ambiguous and clearly includes passport cards."
United States v. Casillas-Casillas, 845 F.3d 623,
626 (5th Cir. 2017) (addressing the meaning of the same
phrase as it appears in section 2L2.2(b)(3)(A) of the
Guidelines). Our analysis leads us to the same conclusion.
accordingly affirm the judgment of the district court.