After nearly 2 years of being locked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a court ruled that a U.S. citizen could not be deported and he had to be set free.
Levy Jaen, a 46-year-old father of 4, was imprisoned in a New Jersey ICE detention facility while his attorneys tried to explain to federal prosecutors that U.S. citizenship is passed from parent to child, reported Buzzfeed News. Strangely, ICE determines family differently than the court system.
Jaen was locked away in May, 2016, and while doing his time, he called his kids daily. His 3 sons are now 13, 14, and 26, and his daughter is 19. He constantly worried about how his 26-year-old son was doing taking care of the other kids, especially with the youngest being autistic.
Although he was born in Panama, Jaen’s parents lived in New York and his father became a U.S. citizen.
His mother was allegedly having an affair at the time, and his birth certificate lists another man as his father. His mother stayed with her husband despite the affair, and he was raised by the man he considered his father.
In 1988, at the age of 15, Jaen came to the U.S. on a visa and has lived in New York since then, assuming he was a U.S. citizen because of his father.
In May 2016, he was taken by ICE after a 2-year sentence for drug possession. ICE tried to have him deported for overstaying his visa.
Because Jaen was born into a marriage with a parent who is a citizen, his attorney argued he was also a U.S. citizen, but ICE attorneys said it is based on a biological relationship, not his mother’s husband / the man who raised him.
“It is really striking for the government to be running around telling marital families that ‘no, this isn’t really a family,'” Ian Samuel, one of his attorneys, said. “That offends some of the oldest instincts we have as a civilized people.”
“ICE seemed totally unconcerned they were imprisoning and deporting a U.S. citizen,” his immigration attorney, Andrea Saenz, said. “I felt that they only saw him as a person with a criminal history.”
In April of this year, a 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he is a citizen and he had to be released. He was finally reunited with his family on the same day.
The court issued its written opinion stating the country has long recognized that a child born into a legally married couple is considered the child of the husband – regardless of biological relations. That has been the standard at the state and federal level for decades.
“This presumption has reflected the traditional ‘aversion to declaring children illegitimate,’ as well as an interest in promoting familial tranquillity through deference to the marital family,” the decision said.
The court made it known that a biological relationship does not have to exist for a parent to pass on citizenship.