OCTOBER TERM, 2000
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit
No. 99-2071. Argued January 9, 2001—Decided June 11, 2001
Petitioner Tuan Anh Nguyen was born out of wedlock in Vietnam to a
Vietnamese citizen and copetitioner Joseph Boulais, a United States citizen. Nguyen became a lawful permanent United States resident at age six and was raised by Boulais. At age 22, Nguyen pleaded guilty in a Texas state court to two counts of sexual assault on a child. Subsequently, respondent Immigration and Naturalization Service initiated deportation proceedings against him based on his serious criminal offenses. The Immigration Judge ordered him deportable. Boulais obtained an order of parentage from a state court while Nguyen's appeal was pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals, but the Board dismissed the appeal, rejecting Nguyen's citizenship claim because he had not complied with 8 U. S. C. § 1409(a)'s requirements for one born out of wedlock and abroad to a citizen father and a noncitizen mother. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit rejected petitioners' claim that § 1409 violates equal protection by providing different citizenship rules for children born abroad and out of wedlock depending on whether the citizen parent is the mother or the father.
Held: Section 1409 is consistent with the equal protection guarantee embedded in the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Pp. 59-73.
(a) A child born abroad and out of wedlock acquires at birth the nationality status of a citizen mother who meets a specified residency requirement. § 1409(c). However, when the father is the citizen parent, inter alia, one of three affirmative steps must be taken before the child turns 18: legitimization, a declaration of paternity under oath by the father, or a court order of paternity. § 1409(a)(4). The failure to satisfy this section renders Nguyen ineligible for citizenship. Pp. 59-60.
(b) A gender-based classification withstands equal protection scrutiny if it serves important governmental objectives and the discriminatory means employed are substantially related to the achievement of those objectives. United States v. Virginia, 518 U. S. 515, 533. Congress' decision to impose different requirements on unmarried fathers and unmarried mothers is based on the significant difference between their respective relationships to the potential citizen at the time
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