The Constitution makes clear that a child born in the United States is a citizen of the United States. But it is silent on the subject of children born to Americans outside the country. This month, the Supreme Court heard arguments about a tiny subset of this group — children born to an American parent not only out of the country but also out of wedlock — and the conditions under which they may become citizens.
The problem facing the court is that existing law blatantly discriminates against men, making it substantially more difficult for unmarried fathers to pass along their citizenship to children born abroad than it is for unmarried mothers to do so. But there's no reason — other than outdated gender stereotypes — for an American mother to have stronger rights than an American father. The court should strike down this unfair law.
A majority of Supreme Court justices may be bothered by an immigration law that treats American fathers differently than American mothers. But it seemed unlikely after an hour-long oral argument Wednesday that a majority of justices thought they could do anything about it.
The court was considering a challenge to a federal statute that makes it easier for unmarried mothers than unmarried fathers to convey American citizenship to children born outside the country.
Ruben Flores-Villar, who was born in Mexico but raised by his father in San Diego, says he is a victim of the double standard. Fighting criminal charges, Flores-Villar, now 36, was denied citizenship and deported because his father did not meet the law's requirements.