A new Supreme Court ruling rejects gender bias in determining citizenship for children born to Americans overseas. The ruling threw out an immigration law that treated mothers and fathers differently when it comes to determining the citizenship of their children. The ruling in the Morales-Santana case said that immigration laws must treat both mothers and fathers the same.
The Supreme Court challenge was brought by a man born outside of the United States. Even though he wasn’t born in the United States, he moved to the United States soon after his birth. Later he committed a series of crimes. Because of his criminal convictions, U.S. officials tried to deport him. He replied that they couldn’t deport him, because he’s an American citizen. He argued he was a citizen even though his father didn’t meet the residency requirement.
The law said that in order for a child to receive American citizenship because of their American father, the father must have lived in the United States for at least 10 years. At least 5 of those years have to be after age 14. Mothers, on the other hand, could transmit American citizenship to their child by living in the United States for only one year. Thus, the law treats mothers and fathers differently.
If that rule applied, Morales-Santana wouldn’t have had American citizenship. His father hadn’t met the requirement for living in the United States for 10 years. However, his father had lived in the United States for more than 1 year.
The Supreme Court agreed that the rule was unfair. They ruled that the law treating mothers and fathers differently is sexist. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the law assumes that fathers are generally strangers to their children, while mothers are not. That kind of assumption is unconstitutional and unacceptable, the justices said.
They talked about a scenario where a father acknowledges paternity and raises the child in the United States from birth. Under the law as it was written, that child wouldn’t be an American citizen. They believed that this was unfair. The Supreme Court said that the United States must rewrite the law so that it’s equal to all groups. That includes married parents, unwed fathers and unwed mothers.
Although this law change may help children of unwed fathers born abroad, the ruling didn’t spare Morales-Santana from deportation. The court declined to extend citizenship to Morales-Santana. Instead, they’re applying a five-year residency requirement for all parents going forward. The U.S. government can still pursue deportation for Morales-Santana. The ruling overturns a Court of Appeals opinion that declared Morales-Santana a U.S. citizen.