WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that a man who was born in Mexico of a Mexican mother and an American father is not entitled to US citizenship, even though the law discriminates on the basis of gender.
Without comment, the top US court upheld a 2008 decision by a federal appeals court in California that refused US citizenship to Ruben Flores-Villar, 36.
With the newest justice, Elena Kagan, recusing herself, the court split four to four. But in the rare event of a tie vote, the lower court decision is automatically upheld.
The background to the case is complex. Flores-Villar’s parents were not married when he was born in Mexico to a Mexican woman, but he was raised in California by his American father.
In 2006, he was arrested and tried as an illegal alien, sentenced to three and a half years in prison and expelled to Mexico.
But in his appeal, Flores-Villar argued that the law on citizenship for a child born outside of the United States treats American mothers much differently than American fathers.
An American woman can transfer citizenship to her child if she has lived for a full year in the United States. A man on the other hand must prove he has lived at least five years in the United States after his 14th birthday.
In Flores-Villar’s case, however, his father was only 16 years old when his son was born.
So Flores-Villar appealed on the basis that the law violated his constitutional right to equal treatment under the law.
The court on Monday did not say how individual justices voted but the case has been before them for seven months, which suggests that the decision was preceded by a long debate.
During a hearing in November, the most conservative justices manifested their intention to leave it to Congress whether to fix the anomaly in the law.