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U.S. Supreme Court to hear gender-based citizenship case

Some California residents may be aware the U.S. Supreme Court announced on June 28 that it will consider whether U.S. immigration laws unfairly favor unwed American mothers over unwed American fathers, which would be a violation of the equal protection provision of the U.S. Constitution. The justices will hear the case next session and will hand down a decision by June 2017.

The case the court elected to hear involves a man born in the Dominican Republic who was denied U.S. citizenship through his American father. Current citizenship law states that unwed American parents of foreign-born children are treated differently depending on their gender. American fathers must spend at least five years in the U.S. before their children born out of wedlock in a foreign country are allowed to seek citizenship. However, American mothers must only prove they have lived in the U.S. for one year before their children can file for citizenship.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit struck down the law in July 2015, stating that the regulations's disparity between fathers and mothers was an example of "impermissible stereotyping." The U.S. Department of Justice appealed its case to the Supreme Court. The U.S. has been attempting to deport the plaintiff in the case since 2000. He has been living legally in the U.S. since 1975 but was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and two counts of robbery in 1995. His father, now deceased, was only 20 days shy of the five-year residency requirement when the plaintiff was denied citizenship.

U.S. immigration laws are complex and often subject to change. People who are interested in learning more about derived citizenship may want to discuss their situation with an experienced attorney.

Source: CS Monitor, "High court takes citizenship case: Should parents' genders matter?," Christina Beck, June 28, 2016

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber