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US Supreme Court stops citizens’ right to sue over foreign spouses’ visa denials

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled against the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to sue over visa denial for their foreign spouses.

According to Reuters, the judgment means that constitutional rights of US citizens are not violated when the government bars their non-citizen spouses from entering the country without explanation.

The court disclosed this in a 6-3 verdict in the case between the Department of State v. Sandra Munoz, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 23-334.

Munoz, a U.S. citizen and civil rights lawyer, cannot challenge the U.S. Department of State’s denial of her El Salvadoran husband’s visa application after the agency waited three years to explain that it suspected him of being a gang member.

Munoz and her husband, who she married in 2010 and with whom she has a child, have been separated since 2015, according to court filings.

Historically in the US, visa denials are not reviewable in court unless the government violates an applicant’s constitutional rights in the process.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected Munoz’s claim that the delay in explaining the denial violated her due process rights by interfering with her fundamental right to marry.

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Her claim “involves more than marriage and more than spousal cohabitation — it includes the right to have her noncitizen husband enter (and remain in) the United States,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for the court.

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The ruling reverses a 2022 decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that revived Munoz’s lawsuit against the State Department.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute, a conservative group that filed a brief backing the State Department, praised the ruling.

“To hold for this couple would let those Americans who choose to marry dangerous aliens force their choice on the rest of us,” Dale Wilcox, the group’s executive director and general counsel, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson gave a dissent verdict on the matter.

“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”, Sotomayor wrote.

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