In State Department v. Muñoz, U.S. Supreme Court Rules 6-3 against Allowing U.S. Citizen’s Husband to Obtain Visa  

By Lily Rusk

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court last week ruled 6-3, along conservative/progressive lines, against allowing a U.S. citizen’s husband to obtain a visa.

State Department v. Muñoz centers around Sandra Muñoz, an American citizen, and her husband, Luis Asencio-Cordero, a Salvadoran citizen. Asencio-Cordero’s visa application was denied by a consular officer who believed he was a member of MS-13, a transnational criminal gang, the Supreme Court ruling notes, making him inadmissible under a statutory provision to immigrate.

Muñoz challenged this decision, claiming it violated her constitutional liberty in living with her spouse in the U.S., according to the Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling detailed that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Muñoz had a constitutionally protected liberty interest in her husband’s visa application and that the State Department was required to provide a sufficient reason for denying the visa, allowing for judicial review.

However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision, ruling American citizens do not have a fundamental liberty interest in having their noncitizen spouses admitted to the country.

In the SCOTUS opinion Justice Amy Coney Barrett said, “The Judicial Branch has no role to play ‘unless expressly authorized by law.’ (Knauff, 338 U. S., at 543) The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) does not authorize judicial review of a consular officer’s denial of a visa; thus, as a rule, the federal courts cannot review those decisions. This principle is known as the doctrine of consular nonreviewability.”

Barrett added even if expressly authorized by law, the government must only provide a “facially legitimate and bona fide reason” for denying the visa, according to Kerry v. Din, 576 U. S. 86, 103–104.

In the ruling, Justice Barrett found Muñoz’s claim did not meet the criteria for a fundamental right under the Due Process Clause, because the right to live with a noncitizen spouse in the U.S. is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.

Historically, the ruling asserts that the government has had broad authority to regulate immigration, including spousal immigration, without creating constitutional rights for citizens to have their noncitizen spouses admitted.

Additionally, the Court noted that accepting Muñoz’s argument could lead to broader implications, potentially allowing citizens to claim procedural due process rights in various third-party proceedings, which would disrupt established legal principles.

After the decision, an amicus brief was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Daniel Galindo, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, stated,

“The Supreme Court says a U.S. citizen has no protected interest in living with her noncitizen spouse in her own country. We strongly disagree. At a minimum, she should be entitled to a fair process.”

About The Author

Lily Rusk is a first-year student at the University of California, Davis majoring in Philosophy with a Pre-Law focus. She hopes to go to law school and pursue a career in Criminal Defense. In her free time, Lily loves to read and listen to music.

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