Huffington Post: "Whoops! The Department of Justice Admits That It Misunderstood U.S. Citizenship Law"

by Joseph McKeown


The US government has been misinterpreting certain citizenship statutes since 2008 and has consequently been incorrectly ordering US citizens deported, reports Laura Murray-Tjan, the Director of the Federal Immigration Appeals Project. The Department of Justice (DOJ) admitted their mistake in a recent decision saying that they "misread" the legal requirements for legitimation. Murray-Tjan writes:

The DOJ's error involved what is known as "derivative citizenship." If a parent naturalizes while a child is under 18, the child automatically becomes a citizen, if some other conditions are met. For example, if a father naturalizes, his out-of-wedlock children must be "legitimated" to derive citizenship.

This recent DOJ decision overturned an immigration judge's order to remove (i.e., deport) Oshane Shaneil Cross, a twenty-six-year-old man who was born out of wedlock in Jamaica to parents who were not American citizens at the time. Cross had been arrested for burglary in Connecticut and argued that he became a US citizen when his father naturalized. The immigration judge, however, said that Cross had never been legitimated under Jamaican law because his biological parents never married. In response, the decision clarified that "a person born abroad to unmarried parents can qualify as a legitimated 'child'...if he or she was born in a country or State that has eliminated all legal distinctions between children based on the marital status of their parents or has a residence or domicile in such a country or State[.]" This was true in Cross's case as Jamaica had passed a law in 1976 that eliminated legal distinctions between children born to married and unmarried parents.

What about those already deported? Murray-Tjan asks. "Will the DOJ communicate its error to affected individuals? How? When?...Will the government make any effort to identify them and bring them home?"