Lawsuit: La. law denies legal immigrants 'basic human right' - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lawsuit: La. law denies legal immigrants 'basic human right'

(Source: KPLC) (Source: KPLC)

Louisiana law requires people born outside of the country to provide their original birth certificate from their country of origin in order to get married.

This is something that many legal immigrants are unable to do, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. district court.

Phanat Xanamane found out about the law when his cousin was denied a marriage license and had to travel across state lines to marry his partner of 19 years, with whom he has four children. 

"Individuals like myself, who came here as a refugee, legally, and have obtained their U.S. citizenship, those federal documents that say who I am and when I was born and show that I'm legally here are not sufficient for the State of Louisiana," said Xanamane.

Xanamane is not the only one appalled at this legislation. Viet "Victor" Anh Vo, 31, has just brought his case to a U.S district court claiming it as unconstitutional after a court clerk rejected his application for a marriage license.

"It's based on a complete misunderstanding of immigration laws, so you just have to look at the basics, which is marriage is an absolute human right and that's already been decided," said immigration lawyer Ashley Dees. "To ask for specific documents from a specific group of people is morally and constitutionally wrong."

Representative Valarie Hodges says the original intent of the legislation was to crack down on fraudulent marriages. She brought the bill to the house in 2015.

The Associated Press reports that Hodges said she will push for an amendment that would allow foreign-born people who are legally in the U.S. to get married here if they can't produce a birth certificate. She said it was "basically a technical oversight" that they weren't eligible for judicial waivers under her legislation. This comes after Vo filed the lawsuit in a district court.

Instead of preventing fraud, most immigration lawyers say this is preventing asylees and refugees from getting married. They have to go through rigorous background checks and make a valid case to the federal government to be issued a work permit - allowing them to obtain a Social Security number and eventually a green card.

"The federal government has that protocol in place through the Department of Homeland Security to identify fraud through marriage-based petitions so it just seems illogical that the state would get involved at this level," Dees said.

Click HERE to view the lawsuit.

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