USCIS tightens rules on US citizenship for children born outside America

FP Staff
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday seized on an error by liberal activists who tweeted photos of young-looking immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in steel cages and blamed the current administration for separating immigrant children from their parents.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today tightened its rules on citizenship requirements for children born outside the country (and out of wedlock) in cases when when at least one of the child's parents already has US citizenship. America's visa regulator USCIS made edits in existing policy and is now mandating that at least one parent should have been physically present in the US for at least 5 years in all cases of children born to a US citizen and a foreign citizen.

The USCIS says the new policy alert is informed by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in Sessions v. Morales-Santana. This marks the latest in a wave of immigration related actions by the Trump administration despite little movement for big ticket immigration legislation that Trump wants from the US Congress.

"We want to fix all loopholes so we never have to be back here again after 2 years", Trump's right hand man on all things immigration Stephen Miller has said often. The White House is readying another mighty push for a comprehensive immigration fix despite little appetite left in Congress for right wing bluster on a complicated and divisive issue. In the meantime, the USCIS is methodically working at plugging existing loopholes in the legal immigration system.

Of all the power centers in the Trump administration, the USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security have remained untouched by the turmoil in the White House and only grown stronger and more focused in the first year of Trump. As midterm elections loom, immigration remains right on top of Trump's agenda to rile up voters who back the US president's #AmericaFirst battle cry.

The USCIS has covered many flanks in the latest policy alert.

In cases where the mother is a US citizen and the father is a foreign national, the USCIS is now ruling that the mother should have been physically present in the US for at least 5 years where the earlier requirement was one continuous year. This guidance is for children born out of wedlock outside of the US on or after 12 June 2017. For children born earlier, the physical presence requirement of 1 continuous year remains in effect.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, the physical presence requirements for parents of children born out of wedlock differed between father and mother. An unwed U.S. citizen mother could transmit citizenship to her child if she was physically present in the country for 1 continuous year prior to the child's birth. In the father's case, an unwed U.S. citizen father needed to have a much longer physical presence (5 years) in the United States to be eligible for the same citizenship benefits for the child.

On 12 June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the different requirements for an unwed U.S. citizen father and an unwed U.S. citizen mother violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

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