Term Year 2016

Sessions v. Morales-Santana

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides the framework for acquisition of U. S. citizenship from birth by a child born abroad, when one parent is a U. S. citizen and the other a citizen of another nation. Applicable to married couples, the main rule in effect at the time here relevant, 8 U. S. C. §1401(a)(7) (1958 ed.), required the U. S.-citizen parent to have ten years’ physical presence in the United States prior to the child’s birth, “at least five of which were after attaining” age 14. The rule is made applicable to unwed U. S.-citizen fathers by §1409(a), but §1409(c) creates an exception for an unwed U. S.-citizen mother, whose citizenship can be transmitted to a child born abroad if she has lived continuously in the United States for just one year prior to the child’s birth. Respondent Luis Ramón Morales-Santana, who has lived in the United States since he was 13, asserts U. S. citizenship at birth based on the U. S. citizenship of his biological father, José Morales. José moved to the Dominican Republic 20 days short of his 19th birthday, therefore failing to satisfy §1401(a)(7)’s requirement of five years’ physical presence after age 14. There, he lived with the Dominican woman who gave birth to Morales-Santana. José accepted parental responsibility and included Morales-Santana in his household; he married Morales-Santana’s mother and his name was then added to hers on Morales-Santana’s birth certificate. In 2000, the Government sought to remove Morales-Santana based on several criminal convictions, ranking him as alien because, at his time of birth, his father did not satisfy the requirement of five years’ physical presence after age 14. An immigration judge rejected MoralesSantana’s citizenship claim and ordered his removal.

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