SCOTUS: Americans Don’t Have Right to Influence Spousal Immigration Decisions

SCOTUS: Americans Don't Have Right to Influence Spousal Immigration Decisions

The Supreme Court decided on Friday against a California woman who claimed her rights were violated when federal officials refused to let her husband into the country, in part because of how his tattoos were construed.

The 6-3 ruling along ideological lines concluded that Americans do not always have the right to participate in federal government decisions about whether immigrant spouses can legally dwell in the United States.

“While Congress has made it easier for spouses to immigrate, it has never made spousal immigration a matter of right,” said Justice Amy Coney Barrett, reading from the bench the majority opinion co-authored by her conservative colleagues.

Since a citizen “certainly has a fundamental right to marriage” according to Barrett, “it is a fallacy to leap from that premise to the conclusion that United States citizens have a fundamental right that can limit how Congress exercises the nation’s sovereign power to admit or exclude foreigners.” In a dissent joined by her liberal colleagues, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that depriving Americans the opportunity to ask for specific reasons why their wives are denied entrance “gravely undervalues the right to marriage in the immigration context.”

Sandra Muñoz, a civil rights attorney from Los Angeles, was denied the opportunity to live with her Salvadoran spouse for almost a decade.

The pair began the process of obtaining an immigrant visa after marrying in 2010. Luis Asencio-Cordero, who had been living in the United States without legal status, needed to fly to the embassy in San Salvador to finish the procedure.

However, once there, the consular officer declined his application, citing a statute that prohibits entry to those who may engage in illegal behavior.

The State Department refused to provide a more detailed reason, but after filing a lawsuit, they discovered that the refusal was based, in part, on a consular officer’s belief that his tattoos indicated he was affiliated with the gang MS-13.

Asencio-Cordero has denied involvement with any gang and has no criminal record. According to his lawyers, the tattoos, which included Our Lady of Guadalupe, theatrical masks, and a profile of scientist Sigmund Freud, were intended to show his intellectual interests and Catholic religion.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Muñoz, ordering the State Department to divulge the basis for the visa application and reexamine it.

The State Department filed an appeal, and the Supreme Court overturned the verdict.


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