SCOTUS strikes down citizenship law – CNNPolitics.com

Surprising it took this long for a case to test the discrimination:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that treats children born overseas to unmarried parents differently for purposes of citizenship depending upon whether the biological father or mother is a US citizen.

Under the law, US citizen fathers have to spend at least five years in the states before the child could become a citizen, while the mother only had to spend one year.
The plaintiff in the case, Luis Ramon Morales-Santana, was born in 1962 in the Dominican Republic to unmarried parents. His mother was a citizen of the Dominican Republic and his father was a US citizen who had not spent more than five years in the United States after his 14th birthday.
Morales-Santana was admitted to the US as a lawful permanent resident in 1975. After years of living in the US he was put in removal proceedings after convictions for various felonies. He claimed he was a US citizen because of his father’s citizenship. But the Board of Immigration Appeals denied the claim because the father had not satisfied the physical presence requirements.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dedicated her career to the issue of gender discrimination before taking the bench, wrote the decision.
The section of the 1952 Nationality Act, she wrote, could not “withstand inspection under a Constitution that requires the government to respect the equal dignity and stature of its male and female citizens.”
But while the law “violates the equal-protection principles,” the court also said it is “not equipped” to grant the relief that Morales-Santana seeks — striking down the law and grant him citizenship. Congress would have to make that determination, Ginsburg wrote.
Under the Immigration and Nationality act of 1952 as originally written, a child born outside of the United States to an unwed citizen father and a non-citizen mother has citizenship at birth only if the father was present in the United States for a period totaling at least 10 years, with at least five of those years occurring after the age of 14. But the statute has since been amendedto decrease the time requirement for those born since November 14, 1986, to 5 years in the United States, at least two of which were after age of 14. A child born abroad to an unwed citizen mother has citizenship if the mother lived in the United States for at least one year at some point prior to the child’s birth.

Source: SCOTUS strikes down citizenship law – CNNPolitics.com

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to SCOTUS strikes down citizenship law – CNNPolitics.com

  1. Marion Vermeersch says:

    Very interesting, and fortunately, this injustice should end with this judgement . But Canada has been no better, as many Lost Canadians lost Canadian citizenship for reasons of “the wedlock issue”.

    When my family learned our citizenship was suddenly gone, in 2004 I made desperate trips to CIC and my local MP’s office in an effort to find out why (we got no notice or hearing of any kind). I was asked to supply my parents’ marriage certificate, which I had never seen and I never did know the date. I obtained that and my father’s military records and saw that he had been requesting permission to marry my mother throughout WWII (he was a sergeant in the RCA). The orders from the Canadian government were that permission must be obtained from superiors. The permission to marry was finally granted to my father at his time of discharge “at the end of hostilities”, Unfortunately, I had been born 3 months before that date, but he married my mother immediately, before he would be shipped home to Ontario. We joined him via a War Bride ship in 1946 and, according to my mother’s documents, were given citizenship on arrival. However, all those years later, after enjoying citizenship for 58 years and living our lives here accordingly, suddenly we were told we did not deserve it, should never have been given it and, of course, i was not eligible as I was a “bastard”, legally. The treatment by the officials there and in the MP office was harsh,demeaning and a shock.

    I soon learned i had lots of company, as many others were contacting the War Brides Museum in Fredericton with similar disclosures. Lost Canadians had other groups who lost citizenship for other reasons, but the War Brides children were not alone in having illegitimacy given as a reason. The fact that Ontario had legislation in 1921 that, in effect, made us as if legally born, was disregarded by those in charge of citizenship.

    Through the years, the reasons for loss of citizenship have varied, and the “wedlock issue” doe seem to be less of a factor. Presently the 1947 date seems to be the prime factor for some of us: it is still used to deny restoration of citizenship along with “second generation born abroad’, in my own case. Many Lost Canadians got citizenship back through amendments in 2009 and more in 2015, but we still have many trying to have it recognized or restored. There are still people coming forward who have just learned their citizenship is gone, and they must now go through the ordeal and lengthy wait to try to get it back.

    Once you lose your citizenship, it is indeed difficult if not impossible to get it back. And I am not convinced that, even in 2017, Canada is totally as tolerant and accepting of illegitimacy as we would like to think. As long as we have the present Citizenship Act, which seems so complicated that not even the politicians and government employees can understand or agree on it, we cannot be sure this issue will arise under a future government. I hope it gets scrapped and we will soon get a new, clear and fair Canadian Citizenship Act.

    ________________________________

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