Gender-Based Immigration Snaggle Headed to SCOTUS

     WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to take up a case where outdated gender requirements snarled a man’s efforts at claiming U.S. citizenship.
     Luis Ramon Morales-Santana was born in 1962 in the Dominican Republic to a Dominican mother and a Puerto Rican father.
     The father was a U.S. citizen under the 1917 Jones Act, but a 1952 immigration law in effect at the time benefitted only U.S. citizen mothers.
     That statute offered citizenship at birth to a child born abroad to an unwed mother who was a U.S. citizen, as long as the mother had lived in the United States or one of its territories for at least a year sometime before the birth – even during her own childhood.
     Unwed citizen fathers faced a more stringent 10-year residency requirement before citizenship could be conferred on a child born abroad.
     The law also stipulated that five of those 10 years had to occur after the father reached age 14.
     Morales-Santana brought a claim for derivative citizenship after he was ordered deported in 2000, but an immigration judge decided that the man’s father did not meet the U.S. residency requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act to convey citizenship under the 1952 statute.
     After the Board of Immigration Appeals declined to reopen the deportation proceedings in 2011, Morales-Santana went to court, arguing that the residency requirements of the 1952 law violated his equal protections rights.
     Morales-Santana objected to the gender-based differences in the immigration law, contending his father could have met the residency requirement for unwed citizen mothers. He suggested the proper remedy was to make the residency requirement the same for both unwed fathers and mothers: one year.
     The Second Circuit agreed last year, holding “that Morales-Santana derived citizenship at birth through his father.”
     “Neither reason nor history supports the government’s contention that the 1952 act’s gender-based physical presence requirements were motivated by concern for statelessness, as opposed to impermissible stereotyping” that fathers were less likely to care for out-of-wedlock children, Judge Raymond Lohier wrote for the three-judge panel.
     Attorney General Loretta Lynch petitioned the Supreme Court for review, and the justices took up the case Tuesday. Per their custom, they did not issue any comment on the case.
     The Second Circuit’s ruling had concluded that equal treatment could be achieved by altering the immigration law, the latest version of which, from 2012, now requires five years of U.S. residency by unwed citizen fathers, two of which must be after age 14.
     It suggested – and rejected – two options: doing away with any residency requirement, or holding every unwed citizen parent to the tougher 10-year standard.
     Instead, the court endorsed a one-year residency requirement for both unwed fathers and mothers.
     It remanded Morales-Santana’s case for further deliberation.
     Morales-Santana had come to the United States as a lawful permanent resident in 1975, five years after his parents married. His father died in 1976.
     Court papers indicate that Morales-Santana’s criminal record dates to 1980, when he was convicted of criminal mischief in the Bronx and adjudicated a youthful offender. In 1995, he was convicted of burglary, robbery and attempted murder in Queens County Supreme Court and sentenced to 12 ½ to 25 years.
     The court also found him guilty of weapons possession and witness tampering.
     Morales-Santana was in prison in Green Haven Correctional Facility in Dutchess County in 1995 when immigration agents interviewed him and determined he was “an alien amenable to removal,” according to court papers.
     He was designated for deportation to the Dominican Republic.

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