Court Upholds Deportation Order for Couple Trying to Have A Child

Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, January 8, 2008

A federal appeals court upheld a deportation order Monday against a South San Francisco couple who had hoped to gain legal status by having a child, but were forbidden by their Roman Catholic faith to use artificial means of conception.

Peter Fernandez and Martha Katigbak, who emigrated from the Philippines more than 15 years ago, argued that being deported would violate their religious freedom.

The married couple said they were being denied equal treatment under a law that allows illegal residents to seek legalization if their deportation would cause exceptional hardship to a child or other close relative who is a U.S. citizen. The couple said they had been trying to have a child for many years, without success, and were prohibited by their religious beliefs from using in vitro fertilization.

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The court noted that the couple could have adopted a child and said that their explanation for not adopting—that their immigration status made their lives uncertain—was “not traceable to their religious beliefs.”

Even if they had a child, the court said, they would qualify for protection from deportation only in rare cases of exceptional hardship, such as the child’s serious health problems or special needs in school. That undermines their argument that the immigration law, with its exception for the hardship of a child, is pressuring them to violate their beliefs, the court said.

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