California residents may not know that immigration laws sometimes treat men and women differently. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 is one such law, and one of its key provisions was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court on July 8. The contentious provision imposed a five-year residency requirement before fathers who are U.S. citizens could confer citizenship to their children born out of wedlock in another country to a non-U.S. citizen. The law only required unwed mothers in a similar circumstance to live in the United States for one year before their children would be considered citizens.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit said that placing an additional burden on fathers amounted to impermissible stereotyping, and fathers will now be subject to the same residency requirements as mothers. The Immigration and Nationality Act originally required fathers to live in the United States for 10 years before they could confer citizenship to their illegitimate children, but a 2012 amendment to the law reduced the requirement to five years. Some observers expect the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case if the government decides to appeal the decision.
The Supreme Court has already heard the case, but the justices found themselves deadlocked after Justice Elena Kagan decided to recuse herself. The nation’s highest court heard the case in 2011 after a California circuit court ruled the controversial law constitutional. Legal experts say that laws rarely discriminate explicitly due to the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
Millions of people in other countries want to come legally to the United States, but there are many pitfalls on the path to citizenship or permanent residency. Experienced immigration counsel could assist those applying for a visa, green card or naturalization to avoid these pitfalls by helping them to meet the strict deadlines involved and explaining the documentation required.