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Court: Error has denied many US citizenship

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 12:01 am

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – For more than two decades, Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta insisted he was a U.S. citizen, repeatedly explaining to immigration officials that he was born to an American father and a Mexican mother in a city just south of the Texas border.

Year after year, the federal government rejected his claims, deporting him at least four times and at one point detaining him for nearly two years as he sought permission to join his wife and three children in South Texas.

In rejecting Saldana's bid for citizenship, the government sought to apply an old law that cited Article 314 of the Mexican Constitution, which supposedly dealt with legitimizing out-of-wedlock births. But there was a problem: The Mexican Constitution has no such article.

The error appears to have originated in 1978, and it's been repeated ever since, frustrating an untold number of people who are legally entitled to U.S. citizenship but couldn't get it.

“What this looks like is nobody's ever checked it out. And it is shocking,” said Matthew Hoppock, a Kansas City attorney who specializes in federal appeals related to immigration issues.

Saldana's case was finally resolved earlier this month, when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the government's explanation of a “typo” and ruled that he had been a citizen since birth.