Immigration Law

Federal judge knocks down law requiring birth certificates of foreign-born marriage applicants

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After a legislative fix in June for a law that had blocked foreign-born citizens from getting married if they don’t have a birth certificate, the federal judge in Louisiana who issued a temporary injunction on the first version in March permanently enjoined the newer one on Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.

The legislative fix allowed for marriage applicants to get a judicial waiver if they don’t have a birth certificate, but U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle said the new law, which went into effect Aug. 1, still was constitutionally flawed with provisions concerning passport and visa requirements that apply only to foreign-born citizens.

Louisiana failed to show a “compelling governmental interest” in having the two-tiered system for citizens born here and those born outside the U.S., Judge Lemelle wrote (PDF).

Republican State Rep. Valarie Hodges, who sponsored the 2016 legislation, has said it was to prevent foreigners from using sham marriages to get visas.

“Unfortunately, sometimes bills don’t come out exactly like you expect as they go through the process,” Hodges said in an emailed statement to the AP in March, the ABA Journal reported at the time.

The suit was brought by 32-year-old Viet Anh Vo, whose application for a marriage license was rejected by the Louisiana Department of Health shortly before his wedding to his U.S.-born fiancee. Vo’s parents fled Vietnam and he was born in an Indonesian refugee camp before arriving in the U.S. when he was 3 months old. He became a citizen at 8 years old.

Alvaro Huerta of the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles and one of Vo’s lawyers, says the couple has waited for the ruling so they can be legally married.

“He has come a long way, because I think he was reluctant at first to challenge the system,” Huerta says.

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