Newark, NJ- One of the primary means for an immigrant to obtain permanent resident status and eventual citizenship is through their parents. The pathway to legal residency or citizenship through a parental relationship can be straightforward, but in many instances the rules governing derivative citizenship can be unclear or confusing as a recent case before the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Second Circuit shows.
That case, Luis Ramon Morales-Santana vs. Loretta Lynch, centered on Luis Ramon Morales-Santana who received removal orders in 2000 after being convicted of felonies. He challenged his removal order before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), claiming that he should have been granted derivative citizenship through his father and should not be deported. The BIA denied his request to have his removal order reopened and Morales-Santana’s case was sent to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Firstly, we need to understand what derivative citizenship is. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines derivative citizenship as: “Citizenship conveyed to children through the naturalization of parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, provided certain conditions are met.”
Morales-Santana was not adopted, but he was born on foreign soil in 1962 to a couple not married at the time of his birth. His father was U.S. citizen but his mother was a foreign national. His parents were eventually married thereby legitimizing Morales-Santana, according the court opinion, but he was not granted derivative citizenship because of a disparity in the Immigration Act of 1952.
Under the Immigration Act of 1952, which was valid when Morales-Santana was born, a child born abroad to an unmarried woman who is a U.S. citizen and whose father is a non-citizen is given U.S. citizenship as long as the mother lived in the U.S. for at least one year prior to the child’s birth.
This same right, however, is not offered to children born abroad to unwed citizen fathers unless the father was present in the U.S. for a period of ten years and they were over the age of fourteen for at least five of those years. Although Morales-Santana’s father met the criteria outlined for unwed mothers, he could not claim derivative citizenship because of the more stringent requirements imposed on unwed citizen fathers.
In his petition, Morales-Santana argued that the gender-based difference in the way unwed citizen fathers are treated and unwed citizen mothers are treated is a violation of his equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment dictates that each individual is offered equal protection of the laws. Morales-Santana asserted that the same protections afforded to unwed mothers should also apply to unwed fathers and he should be granted derivative citizenship.
After careful evaluation, the Second Circuit agreed with Morales-Santana, ruling that the more stringent requirements for unwed fathers violated his constitutional rights and that he should be eligible for derivative citizenship. His case was sent back to the BIA to be decided in accordance with their ruling.
The laws pertaining to derivative citizenship can be very complex. Immigrants in New Jersey who are seeking citizenship, need to prove they are eligible for derivative citizenship or are facing deportation can turn to me for help. I understand the importance of cases like this and how such decision can benefit the people I represent.
If you are located in Clifton, Union City, Hackensack, Jersey City, Newark, North Bergen or anywhere in New Jersey, you can contact my office and we can set up a time to discuss you case. I am passionate about my client’s rights and will work hard to ensure they are protected. You can also rely on me to be dedicated to the success of your case and to work tirelessly to help you with any immigration need you have.