A great program on KPBS this morning covered the case of Ruben Flores-Villar. Flores-Villar, 35, was born in Tijuana, Mexico, but grew up in the San Diego area, in the care of his father and grandmother.
When he sought U.S. citizenship in 2006 — to fend off criminal charges of being in the country illegally — U.S. immigration authorities turned him down. For people born before 1986, their U.S. citizen fathers had to have lived in the U.S. for 10 years, at least five of them after the age of 14. Flores-Villar’s father could not meet the second part of that requirement because he was only 16 when his son was born. American mothers need only have lived in the U.S. continuously for a year before the birth of a child.
Later this year, the Supreme Court will enter a curious corner of U.S. immigration law that applies only to children born outside the U.S. to one parent who is an American and one who is not. The law makes it easier for children whose mother is a citizen to become citizens themselves. Even after reform legislation in 1986, children of American fathers face higher hurdles claiming citizenship for themselves.
Lower federal courts upheld Flores-Villar’s conviction and rejected his discrimination claims. Flores-Villar has previously been deported at least five times since he was convicted of importing marijuana when he was 22, the government said in court papers. The Obama administration argued that the less stringent residency requirement in the 1986 law was one of several reasons for the court to stay out of the case.
The 1986 Citizenship law states:
Children born abroad to two US citizen parents, one of whom has resided in the US prior to the birth of the child, continue to be US citizens at birth, and need take no special actions to retain citizenship.
Children born to one citizen parent and one foreign national will obtain citizenship at birth if the citizen parent resided in the US for five years before the birth, with two of those years after the age of 14. The child does not need to take any special action to retain US citizenship.
Children born out of wedlock to a US citizen mother will be US citizens if the mother resided in the US for one year prior to the birth of the child. Children born out of wedlock to a US citizen father will acquire US citizenship if the following conditions are met:
* There is an established blood relationship between the father and the child,
* The father was a US citizen at the time of the birth,
* The father has agreed to financially support the child until it is 18, and
* Before the child is 18 it is legitimated, or the father acknowledges paternity in a document signed under oath
The court ruled on a related issue in 2001, holding that it was all right to require American fathers, but not mothers, of children born out of wedlock and abroad to get a court order of establishing paternity or swear to it under oath.
The case is Flores-Villar, 09-5801.
Let us know what you think, is this a law that favors children of US mothers, over US fathers?