338 U.S. 537 (1950), 54, United States ex Rel. Knauff v. Shaughnessy

Docket Nº:No. 54
Citation:338 U.S. 537, 70 S.Ct. 309, 94 L.Ed. 317
Party Name:United States ex Rel. Knauff v. Shaughnessy
Case Date:January 16, 1950
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 537

338 U.S. 537 (1950)

70 S.Ct. 309, 94 L.Ed. 317

United States ex Rel. Knauff

v.

Shaughnessy

No. 54

United States Supreme Court

January 16, 1950

Argued December 5-6, 1949

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The alien wife of a citizen who had served honorably in the armed forces of the United States during World War II sought admission to the United States. On the basis of confidential information, the disclosure of which, in his judgment, would endanger the public security, the Attorney General denied a hearing, found that her admission would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States, and ordered her excluded.

Held: this action was authorized by the Act of June 21, 1941, 22 U.S.C. § 223, and the proclamations and regulations issued thereunder, notwithstanding the War Brides Act of December 28, 1945, 8 U.S.C. § 252 et seq. Pp. 539-547.

(a) The admission of aliens to this country is not a right, but a privilege, which is granted only upon such terms as the United States prescribes. P. 542.

(b) The Act of June 21, 1941, did not unconstitutionally delegate legislative power to prescribe the conditions under which aliens should be excluded. Pp. 542-543.

(c) It is not within the province of any court, unless expressly authorized by law, to review the determination of the political branch of Government to exclude a given alien.

Page 538

(d) Any procedure authorized by Congress for the exclusion of aliens is due process, so far as an alien denied entry is concerned. P. 544.

(e) The regulations governing the entry of aliens into the United States during the national emergency proclaimed May 27, 1941, which were prescribed by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 2523, were "reasonable" within the meaning of the Act of June 21, 1941. P. 544.

(f) Presidential Proclamation 2523 authorized the Attorney General, as well as the Secretary of State, to order the exclusion of aliens. P. 544.

(g) Petitioner, an alien, had no vested right of entry which could be the subject of a prohibition against retroactive operations of regulations affecting her status. P. 544.

(h) The national emergency proclaimed May 27, 1941, has not been terminated; a state of war still exists; and the Act of June 21, 1941, and the proclamations and regulations thereunder, are still in force. Pp. 545-546.

(i) A different result is not required by the War Brides Act, which waives some of the usual requirements for the admission of certain alien spouses only if they are "otherwise admissible under the immigration laws." Pp. 546-547.

173 F.2d 599 affirmed.

The District Court dismissed a writ of habeas corpus obtained to test the right of the Attorney General to exclude from the United States, without a hearing, the alien wife of a citizen who had served honorably in the armed forces during World War II. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 173 F.2d 599. This Court granted certiorari. 336 U.S. 966. Affirmed, p. 547.

Page 539

MINTON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MINTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

May the United States exclude without hearing, solely upon a finding by the Attorney General that her admission would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States, the alien wife of a citizen who had served honorably in the armed forces of the United States during World War II? The District Court, for the Southern District of New York held that it could, and [70 S.Ct. 311] the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. 173 F.2d 599. We granted certiorari to examine the question especially in the light of the War Brides Act of December 28, 1945, 336 U.S. 966.

Petitioner was born in Germany in 1915. She left Germany and went to Czechoslovakia during the Hitler regime. There, she was married and divorced. She went to England in 1939 as a refugee. Thereafter, she served with the Royal Air Force efficiently and honorably from January 1, 1943, until May 30, 1946. She then secured civilian employment with the War Department of the United States in Germany. Her work was rated "very good" and "excellent." On February 28, 1948, with the permission of the Commanding General at Frankfurt, Germany, she married Kurt W. Knauff, a naturalized citizen of the United States. He is an honorably discharged United States Army veteran of World War II. He is, as he was at the time of his marriage, a civilian employee of the United States Army at Frankfurt, Germany.

On August 14, 1948, petitioner sought to enter the United States to be naturalized. On that day, she was temporarily excluded from the United States and detained at Ellis Island. On October 6, 1948, the Assistant Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization recommended that she be permanently excluded without a hearing on the ground that her admission would be

Page 540

prejudicial to the interests of the United States. On the same day, the Attorney General adopted this recommendation and entered a final order of exclusion. To test the right of the Attorney General to exclude her without a hearing for security reasons, habeas corpus proceedings were instituted in the Southern District of New York, based primarily on provisions of the War Brides Act. The District Court dismissed the writ, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The authority of the Attorney General to order the exclusion of aliens without a hearing flows from the Act of June 21, 1941, amending § 1 of the Act of May 22, 1918, 55 Stat. 252, 22 U.S.C. § 223.1 By the 1941 amendment, it was provided that the President might, upon finding that the interests of the United States required it, impose additional restrictions and prohibitions on the entry into and departure of persons from the United States during the national emergency proclaimed May 27, 1941. Pursuant to this Act of Congress, the President, on November 14, 1941, issued Proclamation 2523, 55 Stat. 1696, 3 CFR, 1943 Cum.Supp., 270-272. This proclamation recited that the interests of the United States required the imposition of additional restrictions upon the entry into and

Page 541

departure of persons from the country, and authorized the promulgation of regulations jointly by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. It was also provided that no alien should be permitted to enter the United States if it were found that such entry would be prejudicial to the interest of the United States.2

[70 S.Ct. 312] Pursuant to the authority of this proclamation, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General issued regulations governing the entry into and departure of persons from the United States during the national emergency. Subparagraphs (a) to (k) of § 175.53 of these regulations specified the classes of aliens whose entry into the United States was deemed prejudicial to the public interest. Subparagraph (b) of § 175.57 provided that the Attorney General might deny an alien a hearing before a board of inquiry in special cases where he determined that the alien was excludable under the regulations on the basis of information of a confidential nature, the disclosure of which would be prejudicial to the public interest.3

Page 542

It was under this regulation § 175.57(b) that petitioner was excluded by the Attorney General and denied a hearing. We are asked to pass upon the validity of this action.

At the outset, we wish to point out that an alien who seeks admission to this country may not do so under any claim of right. Admission of aliens to the United States is a privilege granted by the sovereign United States Government. Such privilege is granted to an alien only upon such terms as the United States shall prescribe. It must be exercised in accordance with the procedure which the United States provides. Nishimura Ekiu v. United States, 142 U.S. 651, 659; Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 711.

Petitioner contends that the 1941 Act and the regulations thereunder are void to the extent that they contain unconstitutional delegations of legislative power. But there is no question of inappropriate delegation of legislative power involved here. The exclusion of aliens is a fundamental act of sovereignty. The right to do so stems not alone from legislative power, but is inherent in the executive power to control the foreign affairs of the nation. United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304; Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 713. When Congress prescribes a procedure concerning the admissibility of aliens, it is not dealing alone with a legislative power. It is implementing an inherent executive power.

Page 543

Thus, the decision to admit or to exclude an alien may be lawfully placed with the President, who may, in turn, delegate the carrying out of this function to a responsible executive officer of the sovereign, such as the Attorney General. The action of the executive officer under such authority is final and conclusive. Whatever the rule may be concerning deportation of persons who have gained entry into the United States, it is not within the province of any court, unless expressly [70 S.Ct. 313] authorized by law, to review the determination of the political branch of the Government to exclude a given alien. Nishimura Ekiu v. United States, 142 U.S. 651, 659-660; Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 713-714; Ludecke v. Watkins, 335 U.S. 160. Cf. Yamataya v. Fisher, 189 U.S. 86, 101. Normally, Congress supplies the conditions of the privilege of entry into the United States. But, because the power of exclusion of aliens is also inherent in the executive department of the sovereign, Congress may in broad terms authorize the executive to exercise the power, e.g., as was done here, for the best interests of the country during a time of national emergency. Executive officers may be entrusted with the duty of specifying the procedures for carrying out...

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