U.S. Supreme Court to hear appeal of citizenship case

By Deana Carpenter | Jul 14, 2016

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the appeal in the case of a man who has been denied United States citizenship based on the residency requirement of his father.

Luis Ramon Morales-Santana was born in 1962 in the Dominican Republic to an American father and a Dominican mother. The couple, who were unwed at the time, moved from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic 20 days before Morales-Santana’s father’s 19th birthday.

For people who were born before 1986 whose parents were not married, their U.S. citizen father must have lived in the United States for 10 years and at least five of them after the age of 14. Morales-Santana’s father had lived in the U.S. for 20 days less than the requirement.

American mothers have to live in the United States for one year before the birth of a child for it to have American citizenship.

The immigration law was changed in 1986 and now states that fathers must live in the United States for five years with two of those years after age 14.

Alternately, any child born in the United States is considered a United States citizen, even if both parents are from other countries. Additionally, a child born abroad to two American citizen parents is also a United States citizen.

Morales-Santana’s citizenship came into question after he was going to be deported in 2000 because he was convicted of robbery and attempted murder.

He sued for citizenship stating that he was violated under the Equal Protection Clause because of the different treatments for unwed fathers and unwed mothers. The Equal Protection Clause is part of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and states that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The court will not hear the case for several months, but when it does it will take into question why the law makes it easier for children whose mother is a citizen for themselves to become a citizen of the United States.

No date is set for the case, but Stephen Broome, attorney for the appellant and partner at Quinn Emmanuel in Los Angeles, said he expects it to be heard sometime in December.

“The government’s argument is that Congress determined that the father of a non-marital child born abroad must have resided in the United States for 10 year prior to the birth, five of which years must be after the father turned 14, in order to be able to inculcate the child with American values,” Broome told the Northern California Record.

He added, why it’s different for fathers than mothers is the $64,000 question.

“The government argues that the lower requirement for mothers is to prevent the incidence of statelessness which occurs when the child is born in a country that assigns non-marital children the citizenship of their mothers,” Broome said. “Our position is that there is no evidence Congress considered statelessness in passing this legislation, and instead simply assumed that non-marital children would be cared for by their mothers.”

Broome said it is difficult to predict how the court will rule in such a complex case.

“We hope the court will affirm the 2nd Circuit’s holding that federal laws may not discriminate based on gender unless the government can show that the different treatment for men and women furthers an important government interest by means that are substantially related to that interest,” he said. “The law at issue in this case does not meet that standard.”

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