Supreme Court rules on gender-based citizenship law

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Convicted felon Luis Ramon Morales-Santana had attempted to avoid deportation by challenging a citizenship law that makes it harder for children born overseas to unwed fathers to obtain birthright citizenship than children of unwed mothers.

Under the current law, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, an unwed US citizen father must spend at least five years in the US before a child born overseas child could be considered a US citizen, while an unwed mother only had to have spent one year in the US.

Morales-Santana was reportedly born in the Dominican Republic to unmarried parents, in 1962.  His mother was a Dominican Republic citizen, and his father was a US citizen, but had not spent more than five years in the US after his 14th birthday.

Morales-Santana came to the US in 1975 when he was 13, and claimed he was a US citizen because of the assumed citizenship of his father.  However, his father left the US just 20 days short of the 5-year time requirement.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Monday the court ruled, 8-0, that the current law is incompatible with the Fifth’s Amendment’s requirement that all people must be treated equally under the law.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the five-year requirement should apply to children born to unwed U.S.-citizen mothers as well as fathers.

However, the court left it up to Congress whether to change the law and extend the shorter requirement of residency to unwed fathers.

After years of living in the United States and racking up a criminal record of multiple felonies, Morales-Santana received no relief from the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Ginsburg wrote that while the law “violates the equal-protection principles,” the court also said it is “not equipped” to grant the relief that Morales-Santana seeks (striking down the law and grant him citizenship.) Congress would have to make that determination, Ginsburg stated.

The Hill reported that Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in considering or deciding on this case.

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