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US Supreme Court says citizens lack the right to challenge visa denials regarding noncitizen spouses 

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The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that U.S. citizens lack the right to challenge visa denials in court of their non-citizen spouses. 

The ruling emphasizes that extending such rights to individuals outside the United States would be illogical according to the Supreme Court. 

In a 6-3 decision issued on Friday, the Court reaffirmed the extensive authority granted to Congress to establish immigration restrictions and the executive branch’s responsibility to implement those directives in determining admissibility. 

The justices previously determined that migrants do not have a constitutional right to contest these decisions. 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing for the majority, said “We hold that a citizen does not have a fundamental liberty interest in her noncitizen spouse being admitted to the country.”

The case was brought by Sandra Munoz, a U.S. citizen, who contended that she had the right to sue to secure entry for her husband, Luis Ascencio-Cordero, a citizen of El Salvador, into the United States. 

The U.S. Department of State denied his visa application on the grounds of suspected associations with a violent gang. 

While migrants generally lack the right to challenge visa denials, Ms. Munoz asserted that her case was exceptional as the decision impinged upon her marital rights.

She claimed that her right was sufficiently significant to merit the opportunity to argue that her husband is not affiliated with the MS-13 gang. 

Justice Barrett, however, stated that the law does not extend to such circumstances. 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing in dissent in Friday’s ruling, stated that the decision undermines the fundamental right to marriage, a principle the court acknowledged less than a decade ago in its landmark Obergefell ruling on same-sex marriages. 

Munoz has suffered harm from the denial of Asencio-Cordero’s visa application, but that harm does not give her a constitutional right to participate in his consular process. 

“Munoz has a constitutionally protected interest in her husband’s visa application because its denial burdened her right to marriage”, Sotomayor said. 

She said that goes beyond the mere right to the couple — which Ms. Munoz has already done — and includes a right to build a home together, and to raise children.

Justice Sotomayor asserted that, at a minimum, the fundamental right to marriage obliges the government to provide Ms. Munoz with more than a perfunctory denial. 

Analysts noted that thousands of similar cases exist, with their outcomes contingent upon the success of Ms. Munoz’s argument. 

In the previous year, the State Department approved 11 million visas and denied 62,000 applications. Among these, 5,400 were from individuals seeking to reunite with a U.S. citizen partner.

The case highlighted an unusual alignment between the Biden administration and advocates for stricter immigration enforcement. 

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