345 U.S. 206 (1953), 139, Shaughnessy v. Mezei

Docket Nº:No. 139
Citation:345 U.S. 206, 73 S.Ct. 625, 97 L.Ed. 956
Party Name:Shaughnessy v. Mezei
Case Date:March 16, 1953
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 206

345 U.S. 206 (1953)

73 S.Ct. 625, 97 L.Ed. 956




No. 139

United States Supreme Court

March 16, 1953

Argued January 7-8, 1953




An alien resident of the United States traveled abroad and remained in Hungary for 19 months. On his return to this country, the Attorney General, acting pursuant to 22 U.S.C. § 223 and regulations thereunder, ordered him permanently excluded without a hearing. The order was based on "information of a confidential nature, the disclosure of which would be prejudicial to the public interest," and on a finding that the alien's entry would be prejudicial to the public interest for security reasons. Because other nations refused to accept him, his exclusion at Ellis Island was continued for 21 months. A federal district court in habeas corpus proceedings then directed his conditional parole into the United States on bond.

Held: the Attorney General's continued exclusion of the alien without a hearing does not amount to an unlawful detention, and courts may not temporarily admit him to the United States pending arrangements for his departure abroad. Pp. 207-216.

(a) In exclusion cases, the courts cannot retry the Attorney General's statutory determination that an alien's entry would be prejudicial to the public interest. Pp. 210-212.

(b) Neither an alien's harborage on Ellis Island nor his prior residence in this country transforms the administrative proceeding against him into something other than an exclusion proceeding, and he may be excluded if unqualified for admission under existing immigration laws. P. 213.

(c) Although a lawfully resident alien may not captiously be deprived of his constitutional rights to due process, the alien in this case is an entrant alien or "assimilated to that status" for constitutional purposes. Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding, 344 U.S. 590, distinguished. Pp. 213-214.

(d) The Attorney General therefore may exclude this alien without a hearing, as authorized by the emergency regulations promulgated pursuant to the Passport Act, and need not disclose the evidence upon which that determination rests. Pp. 214-215.

Page 207

(e) The alien's continued exclusion on Ellis Island does not deprive him of any statutory or constitutional right. Pp. 215-216.

(f) The alien's right to enter the United States depends on the congressional will, and the courts cannot substitute their judgment for the legislative mandate. P. 216.

195 F.2d 964, reversed.

In a habeas corpus proceeding, the Federal District Court authorized the temporary admission of an alien to this country on $5,000 bond. 101 F.Supp. 66. The Court of Appeals affirmed that action, but directed reconsideration of the terms of the parole. 195 F.2d 964. This Court granted certiorari. 344 U.S. 809. Reversed, p. 216.

CLARK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

[73 S.Ct. 627] This case concerns an alien immigrant permanently excluded from the United States on security grounds but stranded in his temporary haven on Ellis Island because other countries will not take him back. The issue is whether the Attorney General's continued exclusion of respondent without a hearing amounts to an unlawful detention, so that courts may admit him temporarily to the United States on bond until arrangements are made for his departure abroad. After a hearing on respondent's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the District Court so held, and authorized his temporary admission on $5,000 bond.1 The Court of Appeals affirmed that action, but directed reconsideration of the terms of the

Page 208

parole.2 Accordingly, the District Court entered a modified order reducing bond to $3,000 and permitting respondent to travel and reside in Buffalo, New York. Bond was posted, and respondent released. Because of resultant serious problems in the enforcement of the immigration laws, we granted certiorari. 344 U.S. 809.

Respondent's present dilemma springs from these circumstances: though, as the District Court observed, "[t]here is a certain vagueness about [his] history," respondent seemingly was born in Gibraltar of Hungarian or Rumanian parents and lived in the United States from 1923 to 1948.3 In May of that year, he sailed for Europe, apparently to visit his dying mother in Rumania. Denied entry there, he remained in Hungary for some 19 months, due to "difficulty in securing an exit permit." Finally, armed with a quota immigration visa issued by the American Consul in Budapest, he proceeded to France and boarded the Ile de France in Le Havre bound for New York. Upon arrival on February 9, 1950, he was temporarily excluded from the United States by an immigration inspector acting pursuant to the Passport Act as amended and regulations thereunder. Pending disposition of his case, he was received at Ellis Island. After reviewing the evidence, the Attorney General, on May 10, 1950, ordered the temporary exclusion to be made permanent without a hearing before a board of special inquiry, on the "basis of information of a confidential nature, the disclosure of which would be prejudicial to the public interest." That determination rested on a finding that respondent's entry would be prejudicial to the public interest for security reasons. But, thus far, all attempts to effect respondent's departure have failed: twice he shipped

Page 209

out to return whence he came; France and Great Britain refused him permission to land. The State Department has unsuccessfully negotiated with Hungary for his readmission. Respondent personally applied for entry to about a dozen Latin American countries, but all turned him down. So, in June, 1951, respondent advised the Immigration and Naturalization Service that he would exert no further efforts to depart. In short, respondent sat on Ellis Island because this country shut him out and others were unwilling to take him in.

Asserting unlawful confinement on Ellis Island, he sought relief through a series of habeas corpus proceedings. After four unsuccessful efforts on respondent's part, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on November 9, 1951, sustained the writ. The District Judge, vexed by the problem of "an alien who has no place to go," did not question the validity of the exclusion order, but deemed further "detention" after 21 months excessive and justifiable only by affirmative proof of respondent's danger to the public safety. When the Government declined to divulge such evidence, even in camera, the District Court directed respondent's conditional parole on bond.4 By a divided vote, the Court of Appeals affirmed. Postulating that the power to hold could never be broader than the power to remove or shut out, and that to "continue an alien's confinement [73 S.Ct. 628] beyond that moment when deportation becomes patently impossible is to deprive him of his liberty," the court found respondent's "confinement" no longer justifiable as a means of removal elsewhere, thus not authorized by statute, and in violation of due process.5 Judge Learned Hand, dissenting, took a different view: the Attorney General's order was one of "exclusion,"

Page 210

and not "deportation;" respondent's transfer from ship to shore on Ellis Island conferred no additional rights; in fact, no alien so situated "can force us to admit him at all."6

Courts have long recognized the power to expel or exclude aliens as a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government's political departments largely immune from judicial control. The Chinese Exclusion Case, 130 U.S. 581 (1889); Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698 (1893); United States ex rel. Knauff v. Shaughnessy, 338 U.S. 537 (1950); Harisiades v. Shaughnessy, 342 U.S. 580 (1952). In the exercise of these powers, Congress expressly authorized the President to impose additional restrictions on aliens entering or leaving the United States during periods of international tension and strife. That authorization, originally enacted in the Passport Act of 1918, continues in effect during the present emergency. Under it, the Attorney General, acting for the President, may shut out aliens whose "entry would be prejudicial to the interest of the United States."7 And he may exclude without a hearing when the exclusion is based on confidential information the

Page 211

disclosure of which may be prejudicial to the public interest.8 The Attorney General, in this case, proceeded in accord with [73 S.Ct. 629] these provisions; he made the necessary determinations and barred the alien from entering the United States.

Page 212

It is true that aliens who have once passed through our gates, even illegally, may be expelled only after proceedings conforming to traditional standards of fairness encompassed in due process of law. The Japanese Immigrant Case, 189 U.S. 86, 100-101 (1903); Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, 339 U.S. 33, 49-50 (1950); Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding, 344 U.S. 590, 598 (1953). But an alien on the threshold of initial entry stands on a different footing: "Whatever the procedure authorized by Congress is, it is due process as far as an alien denied entry is concerned." Knauff v. Shaughnessy, supra, at 544; Nishimura Ekiu v. United States, 142 U.S. 651, 660 (1892). And because the action of the executive officer under such authority is final and conclusive, the Attorney General cannot be compelled to disclose the evidence underlying his determinations in an exclusion case;

it is not within the province of any court, unless expressly authorized by law, to review the determination of the political branch of the Government.

Knauff v. Shaughnessy, supra, at 543; Nishimura Ekiu v. United States,...

To continue reading