Finding valid defenses to illegal reentry charges tends to be challenging. Today, the Second Circuit issued a lengthy summary order in United States v. Lewis that, unfortunately, won’t make it any easier.
Here’s what happened: Mr. Lewis was charged with illegally reentering the United States. The defense planned to argue that Mr. Lewis, who was born in Guyana, was actually a United States citizen because he had acquired citizenship from his father automatically at birth. His father and mother were unmarried, but a Guyanese law “legitimated” all children in Guyana born out of wedlock.
The question was: did this Guyanese law establish “legitimate paternity” for Mr. Lewis? The trial judge said no, prohibited the defense, and instructed the jury that, as a matter of law, Mr. Lewis had not established that he acquired United States citizenship. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Lewis was convicted. He was sentenced to 63 months of imprisonment.