In August, 2000, Vietnamese immigrant Huyen Nguyen took steps to become a permanent resident of the United States following her marriage to an American citizen, Vu Truong. Seven years later, the United States Customs and Immigration Service rejected her petition for permanent residency and ruled that she was not living here legally: Nguyen was Truong's half-niece so officials deemed the marriage incestuous and void.
The couple appealed the decision. To an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals, the case was simple: birth records and immigration documents showed that Nguyen's maternal grandmother is Truong's mother, which meant their marriage was not valid and so neither was Nguyen's residency status. The judge ordered her deportation.
But when the case reached federal appeals court, the Manhattan-based Second Circuit declared that the facts were not as straight-forward as they seemed: a closer reading of New York statute may in fact validate the marriage. Last week the Second Circuit sought help from the state's highest court, and the New York Court of Appeals must now determine how the law defines an "incestuous" marriage.More »