348 U.S. 528 (1955), 104, United States v. Menasche

Docket Nº:No. 104
Citation:348 U.S. 528, 75 S.Ct. 513, 99 L.Ed. 615
Party Name:United States v. Menasche
Case Date:April 04, 1955
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 528

348 U.S. 528 (1955)

75 S.Ct. 513, 99 L.Ed. 615

United States

v.

Menasche

No. 104

United States Supreme Court

April 4, 1955

Argued March 1, 1955

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT

Syllabus

An alien who filed his declaration of intention to become an American citizen before the effective date of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and who otherwise complied with the naturalization laws then in effect, has a "status," "condition," or "right in process of acquisition" preserved by § 405(a), the general savings clause of the 1952 Act, even though his petition for naturalization was filed after the effective date of that Act. Pp. 529-539.

(a) When subsection (a) of the savings clause was broadened in the 1952 Act, Congress manifested its intention that the Act should take effect prospectively where there was no specific provision to the contrary. Pp. 533-535.

(b) The 1952 extension of subsection (a) is not limited to situations concerning derivative citizenship. P. 535.

(c) The fact that, under the 1952 Act, declarations of intention are no longer prerequisite to naturalization is immaterial here, in view of the provision in § 405(a) preserving the "validity" of declarations of intention "valid at the time this Act shall take effect." Pp. 535-536.

(d) In this case, the alien's inchoate right to citizenship is protected by § 405(a), and is not defeated by any implication stemming from § 405(b). Pp. 536536-539.

(e) Section 316(a) of the 1952 Act, which imposes a more stringent requirement as to residence than did the prior law, did not "otherwise specifically provide" that the 1952 Act, rather than the prior law, was to apply to the situation of the alien in this case. P. 539.

10 F.2d 809 affirmed.

Page 529

CLARK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case and Shomberg v. United States, post, p. 540, present questions concerning the proper interpretation of the general savings clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, 66 Stat. 280, 8 U.S.C. § 1101 note. This clause, § 405 of the Act, provides as follows:

(a) Nothing contained in this Act, unless otherwise specifically provided therein, shall be construed [75 S.Ct. 515] to affect the validity of any declaration of intention, petition for naturalization, certificate of naturalization, certificate of citizenship, warrant of arrest, order or warrant of deportation, order of exclusion, or other document or proceeding which shall be valid at the time this Act shall take effect; or to affect any prosecution, suit, action, or proceedings, civil or criminal, brought, or any status, condition, right in process of acquisition, act, thing, liability, obligation, or matter, civil or criminal, done or existing, at the time this Act shall take effect; but, as to all such prosecutions, suits, actions, proceedings, statutes [sic], conditions, rights, acts, things, liabilities, obligations, or matters, the statutes or parts of statutes repealed by this Act are, unless otherwise specifically provided therein, hereby continued in force and effect. . . .

(b) Except as otherwise specifically provided in title III, any petition for naturalization heretofore filed which may be pending at the time this Act shall take effect shall be heard and determined in accordance with the requirements of law in effect when such petition was filed.

The issue here presented is whether an alien, who filed his declaration of intention to become an American citizen before the effective date of the 1952 Act, and who otherwise complied with the naturalization laws then in

Page 530

effect, has a "status," "condition," or "right in process of acquisition" preserved by § 405(a), supra, despite the fact that his petition for naturalization was filed after the effective date of the new Act. The Government contends that petitions for naturalization are to be governed exclusively by § 405(b), and that, since respondent does not come within the terms of that subsection -- his petition not having been filed before the effective date of the new Act -- the savings clause is inapplicable, and the substantive provisions of the 1952 Act apply.

The facts are not in dispute. Respondent was admitted for permanent residence in the United States on March 7, 1948, and, the following month, he filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen. During the next five years, respondent was absent from the United States on business for several periods of less than a year each. Although the aggregate of these absences was some forty-four months, it is conceded that respondent had not at any time abandoned his American residence. Accordingly, all other prerequisites to citizenship having been satisfied, respondent was entitled to be naturalized under the Nationality Act of 1940 upon completing five years of residence. 54 Stat. 1142, 8 U.S.C. (1946 ed.) § 707. But, before this period had run, the Immigration and Nationality Act became effective on December 24, 1952. Section 316(a) of this Act, 66 Stat. 242, 8 U.S.C. §1427(a), imposed a new requirement of physical presence: to be eligible for citizenship, an alien must be physically present in the United States for at least one-half the period constituting his five-year residence. When, on April 24, 1953, Menasche filed his petition for naturalization, he lacked 14 months of fulfilling this new requirement. Thus, if the 1952 Act applies to respondent's case, it is clear he may not be naturalized, while, under the 1940 Act, he is admittedly eligible for citizenship.

Page 531

The district judge admitted Menasche to citizenship, holding that the 1940 Act governs, because respondent enjoyed a status, condition, and right in process of acquisition preserved by §405(a) of the new Act. 115 F.Supp. 434. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 210 F.2d 809. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the questions presented in this and the companion case of Shomberg v. United States, supra,, in the administration of our nationality laws. 348 [75 S.Ct. 516] U.S. 811.

In interpreting § 405 of the Immigration and Nationality Act in relation to the facts of this case, we must consider the historical background of the savings clause and of the procedure for filing declarations of intention. The declaration of intention was introduced into our law by the second Act of Congress on the subject of naturalization, 1 Stat. 414 (1795), and remained an integral part of our naturalization procedure until the Act of 1952 dispensed with it as a prerequisite to citizenship. 66 Stat. 254, 8 U.S.C. § 1445(f). For the more than 150 years between these enactments, Congress considered it appropriate to require aliens to declare their intention to become United States citizens several years before they petitioned for naturalization. Exceptions were made from time to time to avoid hardship or to expedite the naturalization of a favored group, but, until the 1952 enactment, the declaration constituted the "first papers" toward American citizenship in the usual naturalization procedure. See Joint Hearings before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82d Cong., 1st Sess., on S. 716, H.R. 2379, and H.R. 2816, pp. 79-80, 723-725; S. Rep. No. 1515, 81st Cong., 2d, Sess., pp. 732-734.

Savings clauses of the type here involved -- broad, inclusive provisions -- date back to the general statutes on immigration and naturalization enacted in the early part of this century. The Naturalization Act of 1906, 34 Stat.

Page 532

596, the first real codification of our nationality laws, did not contain a general savings clause, but sought to protect certain prior rights by means of specific provisions. 34 Stat. 597, 599, 603. Nor was there an over-all savings provision in the first of the general immigration laws following the turn of the century. 32 Stat. 1213 (1903). The germ was there, however, in a clause stating that "nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to affect any prosecution or other proceeding, criminal or civil," begun under a prior Act. 32 Stat. 1220. In subsequent immigration laws, the predecessors of the instant provision could be more clearly discerned. The Immigration Act of 1907 provided that nothing in the Act

shall be construed to affect any prosecution, suit, action, or proceedings brought, or any act, thing, or matter, civil or criminal, done or existing at the time of the taking effect of this Act.

34 Stat. 907. To the same effect is the savings clause of the Immigration Act of 1917. 39 Stat. 897. In the years that followed, amendments to the immigration and naturalization laws were enacted with more limited savings clauses, tailored to the special changes made by the new legislation. 40 Stat. 545, 547, 548; 40 Stat. 559, amended, 55 Stat. 252; 42 Stat. 1022; 43 Stat. 169; 46 Stat. 854.1 These provisions, though differing in their terms, manifested an intention on the part of Congress to save rights which had accrued under prior laws.

The direct antecedent of the savings clause here involved appeared as § 347 of the Nationality Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 1168, 8 U.S.C. (1946 ed.) § 747, the last legislation prior to 1952 to deal...

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