WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that children waiting with their parents for immigration visas must go to the back of the line once they reach the age of 21.
The court was divided 5-4 in deciding that only in limited circumstances does federal immigration law allow for children to retain their place in line after they become adults.
The case concerns a programme that allows people who are US citizens or legal residents to sponsor relatives who live overseas. People often have to wait for years for approval of their visa applications and the number of visas available is capped each year.
The litigation is unconnected to recent reports of unaccompanied children crossing the US border illegally.
The court endorsed the federal government’s interpretation of the law, which was that only children of permanent US residents were eligible to keep their place in line once they reached the age of 21.
The case was brought by two groups of plaintiffs, including Rosalina Cuellar de Osorio, who was told in November 2005 that her family was at the front of the line to obtain visas to enter the United States from El Salvador. The family was told at the time that her son, Melvin, who had turned 21 just months earlier, would no longer be eligible.