Victory! Supreme Court Denies Marriage Maneuver

Press Releases

June 21, 2024

Agrees with IRLI that there is no right to live in U.S. with alien spouse

WASHINGTON—Today the Supreme Court decided that alien spouses of U.S. citizens have no constitutional right to be admitted to the country if they have been found inadmissible by consular officers. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had filed a brief with the Court urging that result.

The case was brought by an American woman who is married to a Salvadoran kept out of this country by the State Department because he is a member of the gang MS-13. Reviewing the case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the woman had a constitutional right to have her husband’s visa denial reviewed by a court, even though such denials are unreviewable.

In its Supreme Court brief, IRLI showed that no such constitutional right exists. An American citizen has a constitutional right to marry, but not to live in any particular place with his or her spouse. The denial of the MS-13 member’s visa in this case did not end the couple’s marriage, however much it might present them with a perhaps-difficult choice—to live either apart or together in El Salvador. The Constitution does not restrict the sovereign power of the people, through their elected representatives, to exclude aliens, especially on grounds of public safety.   In its ruling today, the Supreme Court agreed, finding no right under our Constitution to live in the United States with one’s alien spouse. Rather, the normal rules of immigration apply to that spouse, with no constitutional add-on.

“Marriage is an important right,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI, “but it is not infringed by immigration decisions, any more than when one spouse is convicted of a crime in the U.S. and goes to jail. In both cases, the marriage continues. To hold for this couple would let those Americans who choose to marry dangerous aliens force their choice on the rest of us. We are pleased the Court saw how incompatible that is with the sovereign prerogative of the American people to decide who may come to live here, and reversed the Ninth Circuit.”

The case is Department of State v. Munoz, No. 23-334 (Supreme Court).

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