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SCOTUS to hear oral arguments in case examining birthright citizenship

In the last two posts, our blog examined the various scenarios through which children born outside of the U.S. can secure citizenship via one or both parents. Specifically, last time, we explored what the Immigration and Nationality Act has to say when the mother is a U.S. citizen, but unmarried at the time of the child's birth, and the father is a U.S. citizen, but unmarried at the time of the child's birth.

As it turns out, these very provisions of the INA will be the focus of oral arguments held before the Supreme Court of the United States tomorrow in Lynch v. Morales-Santana, a case that is being closely watched by immigrant advocacy groups across the nation and around the world.

The case in question concerns the appellee, Morales-Santana, who was born outside the U.S. to an American father and a Dominican mother, and later in life convicted of attempted murder and armed robbery.

When federal immigration officials attempted to deport him based on this conviction, he argued that this was legally impermissible owing to the fact that he had secured U.S. citizenship via his father. However, the Board of Immigration Appeals declined to reopen the removal proceedings, holding that the evidence clearly demonstrated his father had not satisfied the physical residency requirements for unmarried fathers.

To recap, these physical residency requirements dictate that unmarried fathers must have been physically present in the U.S. or one its territories for at least five years in their life prior to the birth, with at least two of these years being after their 14th birthday. Conversely, these requirements dictate that unmarried mothers need only be physically present in the U.S. or one its territories for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth.

Undeterred, Morales-Santana filed an appeal arguing that the INA's physical residency requirement for unwed fathers was discriminatory against men and therefore violative of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection.

We'll continue our examination of this important case in tomorrow's post.        

If you have questions or concerns regarding any immigration law matter, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.

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