Supreme Court Denies Citizenship to Son of American Citizen

The US Supreme Court ruled that a man born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and American father is not entitled to US citizenship in a law that some believe discriminates on the basis of gender, according to news reports.

The nation’s highest court upheld a 2008 decision by a California federal appeals court that refused citizenship to 36-year-old Ruben Flores-Villar. The court was split four-to-four on the decision after Justice Elana Kagan recused herself from the case.

Children who are born outside of the US to an unmarried American parent are considered American citizens at birth only if the parent lived in the US before the child was born. However, for the mother that required period of residency is one year, while for a father it is 10, five years of which must be after he turns 14. Because Flores-Villar’s father was 16 when he was born, a lower court ruled the plaintiff is not a citizen.

Although Flores-Villar argued the law on citizenship is unfair because it treats American mothers differently from American fathers, the California court ruled it is constitutional to make it harder for an unmarried father to pass on citizenship because his relationship to the child is not as easily verified, according to the New York Times.

In 2001, the Supreme Court upheld a law imposing different requirements for a similar situation. In Nguyen v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the court ruled that American fathers of children born outside of marriage abroad had to get a court order establishing paternity or swear to it under oath in order for their offspring to gain US citizenship.