The Supreme Court, in a closely divided vote, ruled on Monday that there would be no exception given to children of immigrants who turned 21 prior to receiving their immigrant visa. Those not in favor of the decision argue that these children, who effectively “age out” of eligibility for citizenship, are being cheated by the slow-moving nature of the U.S. immigration system. The final vote from the justices came in at 5-4.
The issue is that these children are only aging out of the immigration system because they lose their place in line, so to speak. These children are allowed to wait in the proverbial line for citizenship in the same spot as their parents, but often find that they reach their 21st birthday prior to being processed properly. A 2002 ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Sciaballa v. Cuellar de Osorio et al had allowed immigrant children to maintain the priority status given to them even after they turned 21, assuming that they had already been in line for naturalization prior.
While critics of the decision have argued that it violates the 2002 ruling, Justice Elena Kagan maintains that the former law had contradictory clauses and was ambiguous in its presentation. Kagan cited this absence of clarity as a key factor influencing her decision in her written ruling on the matter.
“Whatever Congress might have meant, it failed to speak clearly. The two faces of the statute do not easily cohere with each other,” wrote Kagan.
This most recent ruling sets aged out children back greatly, putting them in lines that, realistically, they may not ever see the end of, and heightening their risk for deportation and separation from their families. The co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University, Alina Das, reaffirmed this sentiment.
“[Aged out children] continue to be in limbo, waiting for leadership from the administration and Congress to make sure they’re back on a path to citizenship,” Das told The New York Times.