The issues with the United States immigration system extend beyond President Donald Trump. He’s not acting alone in his crackdowns on immigrants, after all. One of his favorite agencies — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — detained a man eventually ruled to be a U.S. citizen for nearly two years. A court ruled in Levy Jaen’s favor earlier this year.
Authorities had challenged his citizenship on the grounds that, despite the fact that his mother’s husband was a U.S. citizen, his actual biological father was allegedly a man with whom she’d had an affair. That’s what his original birth certificate declares.
However, there’s no actual relevant American legal principle underlying that argument. There’s no requirement for biological connection for a parent to pass on citizenship to their children, as Jaen’s father did in the case of his three siblings. Among other ramifications, that would establish a legal distinction between adopted children and biological ones, and deciding what is and isn’t an appropriate family is something the U.S. government generally stays away from these days. (Some state governments continue to assault LGBTQ family rights, but that’s a different story.)
In Jaen’s case, that would mean kicking a man out of the country who’s lived here for most of his life and has established a family. (He has four kids.)
Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler commented in her written opinion on the case:
‘I write separately to observe that though this decision rests upon perennial principles — in other words, no grand innovation of law undergirds our decision today — the government … chose to detain Jaen for the entirety of this appellate process. I am troubled by these choices, particularly given the legal question at issue — Is Jaen a US citizen? — whose affirmative answer has resulted in the United States government holding a United States citizen in immigration detention for nearly two years.’
Considering his siblings’ obvious citizenship, and his father’s, Jaen understood himself to be a U.S. citizen until mid-2016 when ICE took him into custody following him serving out a sentence for a drug possession conviction. At that time, a lengthy appeals process began during which his attorneys’ argued for his release on grounds including that he wasn’t a flight risk. Their arguments went so far as to include declarations from Jaen’s siblings that no matter the biological connection or lack thereof, their father had considered Levy his son for the entirety of his life.
All of those arguments got nowhere until April of this year, however, when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in his favor, freeing him from prison and from the scrutiny of ICE.
When Trump took office, he fully embraced some of the entity’s worst tendencies, pushing the further intense scrutiny of immigrants to this country. The agency’s raids around the country have themselves attracted intense scrutiny, as they’ve at times targeted a number of individuals with deep ties to the U.S. and little grounds to be deported like Jaen.
A number of jurisdictions like the entire state of California have sought to prohibit local law enforcement’s cooperation with the federal agency, and they’ve mostly been successful, although Trump keeps pushing his agenda.
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