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Department of State v. Muñoz: Choosing between love and country

IRAP and American Families United submitted an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Department of State v. Muñoz showcasing stories of families who, like the couple at the core of the case, were separated by consular decisions.

Case background

Sandra Muñoz, a U.S. citizen, sought a visa for her husband, Luis Asencio-Cordero, so that they could live together as family in the United States without concern about Luis’s immigration status. Even though the couple established the validity of their marriage and Luis was granted a waiver of his unlawful presence in the United States, a consular officer denied him a visa based on suspicions of gang affiliations due to his tattoos. After multiple attempts to overturn the visa denial, arguing that his tattoos were religious and cultural and not an indication of gang affiliation, Muñoz challenged the decision in court. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, the government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court and argued, in part, that U.S. citizens do not have a constitutionally protected interest in the outcome of a visa for their spouse.

Our brief

We argue that a visa denial to a spouse of a U.S. citizen implicates the U.S. citizen’s constitutional right to cohabitate with their spouse in safety and to make decisions over childbearing and childrearing. Families with one United States citizen spouse and one noncitizen spouse often have only two options for where they can live as a family: the United States or the noncitizen’s home country. As illustrated by the stories in the brief, a visa denial to a spouse can have devastating consequences, forcing the family to separate and their children to grow up without one of their parents, or impel the U.S. citizen spouse to move to a country where they face risk of violence or lose access to medical care, educational support, or career advancement.

Impact

The Supreme Court’s decision in Muñoz will determine whether United States citizens have a constitutionally protected interest in visa applications filed on behalf of their spouses.

Case status

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Muñoz on April 23, 2024.

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