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Supreme Court Rules Against Woman and Her Noncitizen Husband in Major Decision

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The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Friday that U.S. citizens do not have a constitutional right that requires admitting their noncitizen spouse into the country.

In Department of State v. Muñoz, U.S. citizen Sandra Muñoz of Los Angeles argued that the State Department’s failure to give her a reason for her husband’s visa denial violated her own constitutional rights, claiming the “right to live with her noncitizen spouse in the United States is implicit in the ‘liberty’ protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

Her husband, Luis Asencio-Cordero, had his visa denied after a consular officer found, partially based on his tattoos, that he was affiliated with the MS-13 gang.

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The high court’s ruling came just days after President Joe Biden issued an executive order granting protection to illegal immigrant spouses of citizens.

The order unveiled Tuesday provides spouses a pathway to legal status, along with deportation protection and work permits.

“Muñoz invokes the ‘fundamental right of marriage,’ but the State Department does not deny that Muñoz (who is already married) has a fundamental right to marriage,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in the majority opinion.

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“Muñoz claims something distinct: the right to reside with her noncitizen spouse in the United States,” Barrett wrote.

While Muñoz “has suffered harm from the denial of Asencio-Cordero’s visa application,” the justice said, “that harm does not give her a constitutional right to participate in his consular process.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, wrote that the majority “departs from longstanding precedent and gravely undervalues the right to marriage in the immigration context.”

“Because, to me, there is no question that excluding a citizen’s spouse burdens her right to marriage, and that burden requires the Government to provide at least a factual basis for its decision, I respectfully dissent,” Sotomayor wrote.

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