Fathers Discriminated Against in Citizenship Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about gender discrimination and citizenship that father’s and men’s rights groups are calling an unconstitutional double standard.
Currently, children born overseas who have one U.S.-citizen parent can obtain U.S. citizenship if the citizen parent had been physically present in the U.S. for a certain period of time before the child’s birth, according to the Supreme Court’s blog. If the citizen parent is the father, the period is five years; if it is the mother, the period is one year.
So it is much easier for mothers to pass on citizenship to their children than for fathers. The court must consider if the mother-path to citizenship (which is four years shorter than the father-path) is unconstitutional gender-based discrimination.
This issue was brought to the court’s attention when Ruben Flores-Villar was charged with being in the U.S. illegally. He claims he is a U.S. citizen, as he would already be if his mother had been a U.S. citizen rather than his father.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Flores-Villar was born in Mexico to a Mexican mother but raised in San Diego by his American father. He was denied citizenship under a law that required unmarried citizen fathers to have lived in the United States at least 10 years, at least five of them after the age of 14. Flores-Villar’s father was only 16 when his son was born. (The law has since been revised to shorten the residency period to five years for fathers, one year for mothers.)
The Supreme Court’s blog said at oral argument:
“The Justices honed in on two issues. The first was what level of scrutiny should be used to review the gender-based requirements. The second was what kind of remedy Flores-Villar should have, if any. Specifically, the Justices wondered whether the remedy should extend citizenship rights to the foreign-born children of U.S. fathers, or instead, limit the rights of the foreign-born children of U.S. mothers in the same way they are now limited for the children of U.S. fathers. In other words, if the Court grants relief, should it equalize up, or equalize down?”
James McHale with the Cornell University Law School wrote, “However this case is resolved, the court’s decision will significantly impact the citizenship status of non-martial, foreign-born children with a U.S. citizen father and a non-U.S. citizen mother; and will likely require the Court to address directly the Equal Protection implications of gender-based residency requirements.”
It is not known when the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its ruling.
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