Women and Justice: Jurisdiction

Domestic Case Law

Morales-Santana v. Lynch United Court of Appeals (2015)

Gender discrimination

Morales-Santana sought review of a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals denying his motion to reopen his removal proceedings to evaluate his claim of derivative citizenship. Morales-Santana’s derivative citizenship claim was based on the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (18 U.S.C. §1409). The 1952 Act differentiates how fathers and mothers can confer citizenship to their children. An unwed citizen mother confers citizenship on her child as long as she had been resident in the United States for a year continuously before the child’s birth. An unwed citizen father, however, cannot transfer citizenship to his child born abroad if he was not present in the United States before the child’s birth for a total of ten years. Additionally, five of the father’s ten years in the United States must be after his fourteenth birthday. Therefore, it was impossible for a father under the age of eighteen to confer citizenship to a child born abroad of a non-citizen mother. In this case, Morales-Santana’s father satisfied the requirements for transmitting citizenship applicable to unwed mothers but not the more stringent requirements applicable to unwed fathers. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals found this disparate treatment a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals decision.