Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta, a 49-year-old laborer whose wife and three kids live in South Texas, served a prison sentence in 1989 on a drug conviction.  When he was released, despite his protests that he was a US citizen, authorities deported him in 1992.  Certain that he was in the right, Saldana Iracheta kept applying for a certificate of citizenship - four times between 2002 and 2007 - and kept failing.  He was deported four times, and held in a detention center in Texas for almost two years.  But this month, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals caught the mistake that kept him separated from his family for years: a law which had been repeatedly applied to his case cited a nonexistent article of the Mexican Constitution.

Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod expressed astonishment to the government attorney last month during oral arguments on Saldana Iracheta's case.  "So all along, that's been in this case, and you all have been citing this over and over again to people for years now, and you can't even look it up in Mexican law," the judge said. "It doesn't even exist."  The court ruled in favor of Saldana Iracheta, dismissing the government's claim that a "typo" was responsible for the blunder and laying the onus on the Department of Homeland Security for basing its decisions on an error which went "perpetuated and uncorrected" for so long. 

Saldana Iracheta was born in Matamoros, just across the border from Texas, to an American father and a Mexican mother.  The DHS claimed that because his parents weren't married when he was born, he should have been "legitimated" by age 21 through a process specified by Article 314 of the Mexican Constitution - a nonexistent which was said to deal with the issue of out-of-wedlock births.  According to the Associated Press, a 2008 letter from US Citizenship and Immigration Services cited that article in its decision.   Four years earlier, the DHS also rejected Saldana Iracheta's claim by pointing a different part of the Mexican Constitution, Article 130, which exists but does not say what the government said it did.  Only now, with the appellate court's ruling that his birth certificate's inclusion of both of his parents' names, has his citizenship finally been recognized.

The AP wrote that Saldana still "seethed with frustration" over the ordeal, especially the time he had missed with his children, low wages as an undocumented laborer, and the burden that fell on his wife's shoulders."I have always lived with a fear in my house that whichever night, they'll arrive and arrest me," he said.

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