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Immigration

Supreme Court ruling denies automatic right for U.S. citizens to bring noncitizen spouses

NRI PULSE STAFF REPORT

Atlanta, GA, June 23, 2024: The recent Supreme Court ruling that U.S. citizens do not have the fundamental right to bring noncitizen spouses into the country has drawn significant attention and controversy. The case involved Sandra Muñoz, a California attorney, and her husband, Luis Asencio-Cordero, an El Salvadorian citizen. Asencio-Cordero’s visa application was denied in 2015 by the U.S. consulate in San Salvador, citing concerns that he might engage in unlawful activity due to alleged gang affiliations based on his tattoos. This decision left the couple separated for years without a clear explanation until much later.

The Supreme Court’s decision was heavily influenced by the doctrine of consular nonreviewability, which limits judicial review of consular visa decisions. The government argued that the consular officer’s citation of § 1182(a)(3)(A)(ii) provided a “facially legitimate and bona fide” basis for the denial, suggesting that revealing detailed reasons could compromise national security.

During the proceedings, Justice Sonia Sotomayor highlighted the constitutional implications for marriage, emphasizing that Muñoz has a right to live with her husband. Other justices debated the balance between national security and the need for due process, with some pressing the government on whether more specific reasons could be given without compromising security.

Advocacy groups and legal experts have expressed concerns that this ruling undermines due process and family unity. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigrant Justice Center have argued that the decision allows for potential abuse of power and prejudice in visa determinations, as the historical use of consular nonreviewability has roots in exclusionary practices.

The ruling has significant implications for thousands of U.S. citizens married to noncitizens, as it upholds the State Department’s broad discretion in visa denials without requiring detailed explanations, which critics argue is necessary for transparency and fairness.

There have been instances involving Indian Americans whose own U.S. citizenship has been revoked. One prominent case is that of Baljinder Singh, an Indian national who was the first to lose his U.S. citizenship under “Operation Janus.” This operation, initiated during the Obama administration, aimed to identify and denaturalize individuals who had obtained citizenship fraudulently. Singh first entered the U.S. under a false identity in 1991 and was subsequently ordered to be deported, a fact he did not disclose in his 2004 citizenship application. As a result, a federal judge revoked his citizenship in 2018, reducing him to green card status and making him potentially subject to deportation​.

Denaturalization, though rare, is pursued by the U.S. government when there is evidence of fraud in the naturalization process. The Justice Department has increased efforts in recent years, especially following revelations of missing fingerprint data that could conceal the identities of individuals who should not have been granted citizenship. This rigorous enforcement aims to uphold the integrity of the U.S. immigration system

Cover photo courtesy: Wikimedia

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