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One of Ruben Flores-Villar’s parents is an American. Unfortunately for him, it is his father and not his mother, a fact that has complicated Flores-Villar’s attempts to acquire U.S. citizenship and avoid criminal charges for being in the United States illegally.

Now, the Supreme Court is entering a curious corner of U.S. immigration law that applies only to children born outside the U.S. to one parent who is an American and one who is not. The law makes it easier for children whose mothers are citizens to become citizens themselves. Even after reform legislation in 1986, children of American fathers face higher hurdles claiming citizenship for themselves.

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