The October session of the U.S. Supreme Court opened this week, and a case addressing state laws that sanction employers hiring unauthorized workers will be heard along with another. The former is the first case challenging the recent surge in state and local laws’ attempt to regulate immigration and immigrants themselves. It gives the Supreme Court the chance to reaffirm that it is the federal government’s constitutional right to determine immigration law. The second case has the Supreme Court deciding whether former provisions in citizenship law that impose a five-year residency requirement for citizen fathers but not mothers, violate equal protection.
The first case, which addresses bills and actions like Arizona’s passing and attempted enforcement of SB1070, gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to send a clear message that states are not allowed to bypass the authority of the federal government and change the carefully designed “blueprint” of immigration law. Currently, Arizona is interfering with this authority and the Obama Administration as well as others have already filed briefs in support of challengers of Arizona’s law(s). While everyone seems to agree that immigration reform is necessary, the Supreme Court is to decide how, when, and what is changed.
The second case the Supreme Court will be hearing is that of Flores-Villar v. United States. The Court will look at former conditions of citizenship laws and determine whether they violate equal protection. A five-year residence requirement on U.S. citizen fathers, but not on mothers is necessary before they can award citizenship to a child born out of wedlock abroad.
The petitioner in Flores-Villar was born in Mexico to an American citizen father and a noncitizen mother. He grew up in the U.S. and his father later filed an acknowledgment of paternity in Mexico. The petitioner was later deported from the U.S. and after returning illegally, was criminally charged with illegal reentry. As his defense, he contends that he is a United States citizen, because the law makes an unlawful classification on the basis of gender, because of the required five years of residency for U.S. citizen fathers, but less for U.S. citizen mothers.
The outcome of this case will not only have implications in immigration law, but in laws regarding gender discrimination, as the Court has the opportunity to clarify that gender-based classifications are not legal regardless of their context.