Articles Posted in Citizenship

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Applicants for citizenship must meet requirements required by law to qualify for citizenship, including periods of residence and continuous presence, as well as good moral character during such periods. Recently USCIS issued an updated guidance regarding the requirement for good moral character, and specifically discussed the effect on immigrants that engage in conduct related to marijuana.

While states like Colorado and Illinois have decriminalized marijuana, it remains a controlled substance under federal law, and any involvement with marijuana, including ownership and work in the marijuana industry, may affect a non-citizens’ ability to establish a good moral character, a prerequisite for citizenship.

An applicant for citizenship cannot demonstrate good moral character if the applicant has violated any controlled substance-related federal or state law or regulation of the United States or any foreign country during the required statutory period.  This legal impediment does not require a criminal conviction.  While it certainly applies to convictions, it also applies to an admission to such an offense, or an admission to committing acts that constitute the essential elements of a violation of any controlled substance law.  In addition, if an applicant benefited financially from a spouse or parent’s trafficking in a controlled substance, such applicant also will be subject to the bar even if the applicant personally did not participate in drug trafficking.

Marijuana remains “Schedule I”  controlled substance under the federal Control Substance Act, 21 U.S.C. §802(16).  Under Schedule I, marijuana does not have accepted medical use.  Therefore, conduct involving marijuana, even legal under state law, may violate the Control Substances Act, and will be a federal criminal offense and a bar to establishing good moral character for the purposes of citizenship. Continue reading →

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The Chicago immigration attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer reviewed today’s United States Supreme Court decision with regard to children born abroad to unwed parents.  Prior to today’s decision, the statute provided for different requirements how unwed mothers and unwed fathers can transmit citizenship to a child born abroad.  The United States Supreme Court struck down the different requirements on equal protection grounds.

Under the challenged statute, unwed mothers could transmit U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad if the mother has been physically present in the United States or one of the outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year.  On the other hand, an unwed father under the law at the time of the Respondent’s birth, could transmit citizenship if the father had been physically present in the United States for ten years, five of which over the age of 14.  The father had to meet additional requirements that were not at issue in the case.

The case involved Luis Ramón Morales-Santana, born in Jamaica, who had lived in the United States since he was 13 years old.  The U.S. government had placed him in the process of removal from the United States because he had committed certain crimes.  The Respondent asserted that the government could not remove him because he was a U.S. citizen at birth.  The Respondent claimed to be a U.S. citizen based on the U. S. citizenship of his biological father, José Morales.   His father had moved to the Dominican Republic only 20 days before he turned 19, and was 20 days short of the five years residence after the age of 14 requirement at the time, to transmit U.S. citizenship.  The father had met all other requirements to transmit citizenship to his son, except the residence requirement.  At the time the case made its way up the court system, the father had died and the Supreme Court found that the Respondent has the right to assert the equal protection claim on behalf of his father.

The Respondent moved to reopen the removal proceedings to assert the claim to U.S. citizenship.  The Immigration Judge denied the motion, and the Board of Immigration affirmed.  The immigration judge denied his claim and ordered the Respondent removed.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, and held that the different treatment of unwed mothers and fathers violates equal protection.  The Second Circuit held that Luis Ramón Morales-Santana derived U.S. citizenship from his father using the requirement for unwed mothers of one year continuous physical residence, instead of ten years, five of which over the age of 14 applicable to unwed fathers.

The government petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Second Circuit that the disparate treatment of unwed mothers and unwed fathers violates equal protection of the U.S. constitution.  However, the Supreme Court disagreed that the shorter period should apply.  Rather, the Court determined that the longer period should apply to both.

The Court stated: Continue reading →