Ever wonder how a U.S. citizen is mistaken as an immigrant and deported?
This error is not uncommon.
Sometimes the reason is innocent ignorance. Most immigrants do not understand how various provisions of citizenship law work.
Government mistake may be at fault. Since immigrant officers have limited immigration knowledge, they can miss the boat on why certain immigrants qualify for citizenship.
Other times, the government omission may be deliberate and less excusable.
Whatever the cause, the consequences are steep.
A 20-Year Battle For Citizenship
An American citizen being deported four times because of a law that doesn’t exist sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie.
Sadly, this is a true story.
This is the story of Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta.
His claims of citizenship were continuously rejected.
Not once, not twice, not three times.
His story illustrates how agency bias, institutionalized within government agencies, can lead to inadequately weighing an immigrant’s claim to citizenship.
It also demonstrates the importance of immigration appeals when a government official, agency, or judge has made a mistake crucial to one’s immigration status.
For more than two decades, Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta kept telling immigration officials he was a U.S. citizen, born to an American father and a Mexican mother in Matamoros, a city just south of the Texas border.
He should have eligible under the rules for acquisition of citizenship.
What Is Acquisition Of Citizenship?
Under acquisition of citizenship, if you were born in another country, and at least one of your parents was a U. S. citizen, you may qualify as a U. S. citizen by birth.
Over the years, the rules for acquisition of citizenship have been modified several times. Thus, in order for an unmarried U.S. citizen father to transmit citizenship to his child born abroad, he must meet the requirements in effect at the time of the child’s birth.
As such, in 1964 when Saldana was born, the existing regulations specified that he had to show that: (1) he was legitimated before the age of 21 under the laws of the Mexican state where he resided and (2) before his birth, his father had resided in the U.S. for ten years, at least five of which were after the age of 14.
All of the rejections were based on the first provision.
He applied for citizenship several times. Time after time, immigration authorities denied his claims, deporting him at least four times. At one point, he was detained for nearly two years as he sought permission to join his wife and three children in South Texas.
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – For more than two decades, Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta insisted he was a U.S. citizen, repeatedly explaining to immigration officials that he was born to an American father and a Mexican mother in a city just south of the Texas border.
Despite Four Denials, Saldana Refused To Abandon His Citizenship Claim
In rejecting Saldana’s bid for citizenship, Department of Homeland Security officials and attorneys continuously applied an old law citing Article 314 of the Mexican Constitution, which supposedly dealt with legitimizing out-of-wedlock births.
The Constitution of Mexico, argued DHS, stood for the proposition that children born out of wedlock in Mexico could only be legitimated by the subsequent marriage of their parents.
But there was a problem. The Mexican Constitution has no such law.
At a hearing before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the government lawyer explained the mistake on a typo.
In response, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod scolded the government attorney, “You all have been citing this over and over again to people for years now, and you can’t even look it up in Mexican law.”
The judge was correct but may not have gone far enough.
Did Saldana ever have an attorney represent him in the earlier cases?
What about the judges in those earlier cases?
Was anyone awake besides Saldana?
Perhaps worse, it is not known how many immigrants, like Saldana, have been deported under the same flawed interpretation of the non-existent Mexican law.
I agree with the judge. How could the government cite a law which doesn’t exist?
Although I’m a long time citizenship attorney with over 20 years experience, during which period I’ve experienced many unique fact situations, it is unfathomable the government would commit the same error over and over again. And I’m amazed Saldana was willing to fight so long and so hard in opposition.
In my view, this mistake is incredibly a few heads in the DHS ranks should be rolling and pink slips should be issued.
Immigration News Curation By Carlos Batara