This story discusses an error of huge proportions.
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.
His claims were continuously rejected.
Not once, not twice, not three times.
It illustrates, at minimum, how agency bias, institutionalized within government agencies, can – and more often than the public suspects, does – fail to adequately weigh claims to citizenship.
It also demonstrates the importance of immigration appeals when a government official, agency, or judge has made a mistake.
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.
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.
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.
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?
And what about the judges in those earlier cases?
Was anyone awake besides Saldana?
Perhaps worse, it is not know how many immigrants, like Saldana, have been deported under the same flawed interpretation of a non-existent law.
I agree with the judge. How could the government cite a law which doesn’t exist?
Even as a long time citizenship and naturalization attorney with over 20 years experience, I find it almost unfathomable that the government would commit the same error over and over again – and it’s amazing this gentleman was willing to fight so long and so hard in opposition.
In my view, a few heads should be rolling and pink slips should be issued.
Immigration News Curation By Carlos Batara