312 U.S. 52 (1941), 22, Hines v. Davidowitz

Docket Nº:No. 22
Citation:312 U.S. 52, 61 S.Ct. 399, 85 L.Ed. 581
Party Name:Hines v. Davidowitz
Case Date:January 20, 1941
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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312 U.S. 52 (1941)

61 S.Ct. 399, 85 L.Ed. 581

Hines

v.

Davidowitz

No. 22

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 20, 1941

Argued December 10, 11, 1940

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Syllabus

1. Applicable legislation enacted while the case was pending on appeal will be enforced by the appellate court. P. 60.

2. Whatever power a State may have to restrict, limit, regulate and register aliens as a distinct group, is subject to the national legislative and treaty-making powers. P. 68.

3. The Federal Alien Registration Act of 1940 forms, with the immigration and naturalization laws, a comprehensive and integrated scheme for the regulation of aliens, and precludes the enforcement of state alien registration Acts such as that adopted by Pennsylvania in 1939. P. 74.

The Pennsylvania Act requires every alien 18 years or over, with certain exceptions, to register once each year; provide such information as is required by the statute, plus any "other information and details" that the Department of Labor and Industry may direct; pay $1 as an annual registration fee; receive an alien identification card and carry it at all times; show the card whenever it may be demanded by any police officer or agent of the Department of Labor and Industry, and exhibit the card as a condition precedent to registering a motor vehicle in his name or obtaining a license to operate one. The Department of Labor and Industry is charged with the duties of classifying the registrations for "the purpose of ready reference," and furnishing a copy of the classification to the Pennsylvania Motor Police. Nonexempt aliens who fail to register are subject to a fine of not more than $100 or imprisonment for not more than 60 days, or both. For failure to carry an identification card or for failure to show it upon proper demand, the punishment is a fine of not more than $10, or imprisonment for not more than 10 days, or both. P. 59.

The federal Act provides for a single registration of aliens 14 years of age and over; detailed information specified by the Act, plus "such additional matters as may be prescribed by the Commissioner, with the approval of the Attorney General"; fingerprinting of all registrants, and secrecy of the federal files, which

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can be "made available only to such persons or agencies as may be designated by the Commissioner, with the approval of the Attorney General." No requirement that aliens carry a registration card to be exhibited to police or others is embodied in the law, and only the willful failure to register is made a criminal offense; punishment is fixed at a fine of not more than $1000, imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. P. 60.

30 F.Supp. 470, affirmed.

APPEAL from a decree of a District Court of three judges which restrained officials of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from enforcing against an alien provisions of the Pennsylvania Alien Registration Act of 1939.

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BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves the validity of an Alien Registration Act adopted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.1 The Act, passed in 1939, requires every alien 18 years or over, with certain exceptions,2 to register once each year; provide such information as is required by the statute, plus any "other information and details" that the Department of Labor and Industry may direct; pay $1 as an annual registration fee; receive an alien identification card and carry it at all times; show the card whenever it may be demanded by any police officer or any agent of the Department of Labor and Industry, and exhibit the card as a condition precedent to registering a motor vehicle in his name or obtaining a license to operate one. The Department of Labor and Industry is charged with the duties of classifying the registrations for "the purpose of ready reference," and furnishing a copy of the classification to the Pennsylvania Motor Police. Nonexempt aliens who fail to register are subject to a fine of not

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more than $100 or imprisonment for not more than 60 days, or both. For failure to carry an identification card or for failure to show it upon proper demand, the punishment is a fine of not more than $10, or imprisonment for not more than 10 days, or both.

A three-judge District Court enjoined enforcement of the Act, holding that it denied aliens equal protection of the laws, and that it encroached upon legislative powers constitutionally vested in the federal government.3 It is that judgment we are here called upon to review.4 But, in 1940, after the court had held the Pennsylvania Act invalid, Congress enacted a federal Alien Registration Act.5 We must therefore pass upon the state Act in the light of the Congressional Act.6

The federal Act provides for a single registration of aliens 14 years of age and over; detailed information specified by the Act, plus "such additional matters as may be prescribed by the Commissioner, with the approval of the Attorney General"; fingerprinting of all registrants, and secrecy of the federal files, which can be "made available only to such persons or agencies as may be designated by the Commissioner, with the approval of the Attorney General." No requirement that aliens carry a registration card to be exhibited to police or

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others is embodied in the law, and only the willful failure to register is made a criminal offense; punishment is fixed at a fine of not more than $1000, imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.

The basic subject of the state and federal laws is identical -- registration of aliens as a distinct group. Appellants urge that the Pennsylvania law "was constitutional when passed," and that

The only question is whether the state act is in abeyance, or whether the state and Federal Government have concurrent jurisdiction to register aliens for the protection of inhabitants and property.

Appellees, on the other hand, contend that the Pennsylvania Act is invalid for the reasons that it (1) denies equal protection of the laws to aliens residing in the state; (2) violates § 16 of the Civil Rights Act of 1870;7 (3) exceeds Pennsylvania's constitutional power in requiring registration of aliens without Congressional consent. Appellees' final contention is that the power to restrict, limit, regulate and register aliens as a distinct group is not an equal and continuously existing concurrent power of state and nation, but that, even if the state can legislate on this subject at all, its power is subordinate to supreme national law. Appellees conclude that, by its adoption of a comprehensive, integrated scheme for regulation of aliens -- including its 1940 registration act -- Congress has precluded state action like that taken by Pennsylvania.8

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In the view we take, it is not necessary to pass upon appellees' first, second, and third contentions, and so we pass immediately to their final question, expressly leaving open all of appellees' other contentions, including the argument that the federal power in this field, whether exercised or unexercised, is exclusive. Obviously the answer to appellees' final question depends upon an analysis of the respective powers of state and national governments in the regulation of aliens as such, and a determination of whether Congress has, by its action, foreclosed enforcement of Pennsylvania's registration law.

First. That the supremacy of national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, [61 S.Ct. 402] naturalization, and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution, was pointed out by the authors of The Federalist in 1787,9 and has since been given continuous recognition by this Court.10 When the national government, by treaty or statute, has established rules and

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regulations touching the rights, privileges, obligations or burdens of aliens as such, the treaty or statute is the supreme law of the land. No state can add to or take from the force and effect of such treaty or statute, for Article VI of the Constitution provides that

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof, and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land, and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Federal Government, representing as it does the collective interests of the forty-eight states, is entrusted with full and exclusive responsibility for the conduct of affairs with foreign sovereignties.

For local interests the several States of the Union exist, but, for national purposes, embracing our relations with foreign nations, we are but one people, one nation, one power.11

Our system of government is such that the interest of the cities, counties and states, no less than the interest of the people of the whole nation, imperatively requires that federal power in the field affecting foreign relations be left entirely free from local interference. As Mr. Justice Miller well observed of a California

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statute burdening immigration:

If [the United States] should get into a difficulty which would lead to war or to suspension of intercourse, would California alone suffer, or all the Union?12

One of the most important and delicate of all international relationships, recognized immemorially as a responsibility of government, has to do with the protection of the just rights of a country's own nationals when those nationals are in another country. Experience has shown that international controversies of the gravest moment, sometimes even leading to war, may arise from real or imagined wrongs to another's [61 S.Ct. 403] subjects inflicted or permitted by a government.13...

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