California Court Decides Felon is U.S. Citizen, Can't Be Deported

| by Allison Geller

A San Francisco federal appeals court ruled that a Mexican man who served time for a robbery in the U.S. is a legal citizen and cannot be deported. The man’s father adopted him in Mexico before becoming a U.S. citizen, entitling his son to citizenship despite the fact that they are not biologically related.

Luis Gonzalez-Marquez, 26, was born in the Mexican state of Chihuahua with no father named on his birth certificate, the San Francisco Gate reported. When he was four, his mother’s husband declared that Gonzalez-Marquez was his son, and his birth certificate was changed with no formal adoption procedure. The family came to the U.S. in 1994 and the father became a citizen in 1996, according to the son's lawyer, Richard Coshnear.

Coshnear said that Gonzalez-Marquez pleaded guilty to robbery after his 18th birthday. He did his time, but has since been held behind bars for almost three years as immigration officials try to deport him. Under current immigration law, legal residents can be sent back to their home countries for committing “aggravated felonies,” even after they've served their sentences. 

While immigration courts upheld the deportation decision, the appeals court overruled it Friday, stating that U.S. law "honors concepts of family law from foreign countries.” If Gonzalez-Marquez’ father declared him his son and the Mexican government honored it, then the adoption holds up in the U.S. as well. Since the man "undertook the legal obligation to raise (the child) as if he were his biological or adopted son," their relationship must be considered such in the U.S.

Coshnear was pleased with the decision, saying that after making "one mistake" in his youth, Gonzalez-Marquez now has "an opportunity to rehabilitate himself and lead a law-abiding life here."

Meanwhile an undocumented immigrant in California is set to start practicing law on his own. The California Supreme Court granted a law license to Mexican-born Sergio Garcia, who arrived in the U.S. with his father as a teenager and was never granted citizenship, in a decision opposed by the Obama administration but upheld by a new California state law.

Sources: SF Gate, CBS Local