Case Studies in Citizenship Advocacy

Almost three years ago, I wrote in these pages about the conflicting jurisprudence on the meaning of “legitimation” for purposes of derivative citizenship claims. At that time, there was interpretive inconsistency in the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA's or Board's) precedent decisions that the Second Circuit had ordered the Board to clear up in its remand order in Watson v. Holder. The Board had long espoused an interpretation of “legitimation” as used in § 101(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) whereby legitimation was automatically accomplished by operation of law when a jurisdiction conferred equal rights on children born in or out of wedlock. More recently, in its decisions addressing whether “paternity [was] established by legitimation” for purposes of former INA § 321(a) derivative citizenship claims—Matter of Hines and Matter of Rowe—the Board had overruled its earlier case law to find that equality of rights was insufficient if a jurisdiction retained a prescription for accomplishing legitimation. In that circumstance, the prescribed “requisite act” had to be followed for legitimation to be achieved.4It was the Board's extension of the definition that it coined for § 321(a) to the meaning of “legitimation” as used throughout the INA—including in § 101(b)—that concerned the Second Circuit.5

The rest of this piece is available at

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