Supreme Court: Dads Have Equal Rights to Confer Citizenship to Children

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 14, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In an odd stride for equal rights between the genders, and one that is sure to please the "dadvocates" out there, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws conferring citizenship to children cannot favor mothers over fathers. The decision does not apply to custody matters, but solely to issues involving the citizenship of a child born outside the borders of the U.S.A. to a parent that is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

In short, the Court struck down the distinction in the law that placed a stricter requirement on fathers than mothers, when it came to eligibility for their foreign-born child to obtain U.S. citizenship.

Details of the Case

The underlying case was filed by Mr. Luis Ramon Morales-Santana, the child of a naturalized U.S. citizen and a non-citizen, who is facing deportation as an adult after being convicted of a few serious crimes that triggered deportation proceedings. Mr. Morales-Santana's father was a U.S. citizen, but had not met the strict 10 year residence requirement under the law, in effect at the time, to grant a child born outside the U.S.A. citizenship.

Significantly though, the law only required an unwed mother to be a citizen for, and have resided in the U.S. for, 1 year, at any time, in order to be able to confer citizenship on her child. The Court found that the distinction between mothers and fathers in the law was arbitrary and discriminatory.

Details of the Decision

Laws governing foreign born children of U.S. citizens have changed over the decades. Justice Ginsberg, writing for the Court, explained that the "long-held view that unwed fathers care little about their children" is no longer espoused. The Justice further explained that these sorts of mischaracterizations "no longer passes equal protection inspection."

SCOTUS clarified that the current law has been updated, and that based on their decision, will now apply a consistent 5 year requirement for both mothers and fathers. Unfortunately for Mr. Morales-Santana, the Court also held that the 1 year requirement for mothers to be an exception that did not apply to the instant case. What's worse for Mr. Morales-Santana, is that his father did not meet the requirements as stated by SCOTUS. Therefore he was not made a citizen, which will allow his deportation to move forward.

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