444 U.S. 252 (1980), 71143, Vance v. Terrazas

Docket Nº:No. 71143
Citation:444 U.S. 252, 100 S.Ct. 540, 62 L.Ed.2d 461
Party Name:Vance v. Terrazas
Case Date:January 15, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 252

444 U.S. 252 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 540, 62 L.Ed.2d 461

Vance

v.

Terrazas

No. 71143

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 15, 1980

Argued October 30, 1979

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 349(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that

a person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by . . . taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof.

Section 349(c) provides that the party claiming that such loss of citizenship occurred must "establish such claim by a preponderance of the evidence," and that a person who commits any act of expatriation

shall be presumed to have done so voluntarily, but such presumption may be rebutted upon a showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the act or acts committed or performed were not done voluntarily.

Appellee, who was a citizen of both the United States and Mexico at birth, subsequently obtained a certificate of Mexican citizenship after executing an application in which he swore allegiance to Mexico and expressly renounced his United States citizenship. Thereafter, the Department of State issued a certificate of loss of nationality, and the Board of Appellate Review of the Department of State affirmed. Appellee then brought suit for a declaration of his United States nationality, but the District Court concluded that the United States had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that appellee had knowingly and voluntarily taken an oath of allegiance to Mexico and renounced allegiance to the United States, thus voluntarily relinquishing United States citizenship pursuant to § 349(a)(2). The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Congress had no power to legislate the evidentiary standard contained in § 349(c), and that the Constitution required that proof be not merely by a preponderance of the evidence, but by "clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence."

Held:

1. In establishing loss of citizenship, the Government must prove an intent to surrender United States citizenship, not just the voluntary commission of an expatriating act such as swearing allegiance to a foreign nation. Congress does not have any general power to take away an American citizen's citizenship without his "assent," which means an intent to relinquish citizenship, whether the intent is expressed in

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words or is found as a fair inference from his conduct. The expatriating acts specified in § 349(a) cannot be treated as conclusive evidence of the indispensable voluntary assent of the citizen. The trier of fact must, in the end, conclude that the citizen not only voluntarily committed the expatriating act prescribed in the statute, but also intended to relinquish his citizenship. Cf. Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253. Pp. 258-263.

2. However, the Constitution permits Congress to prescribe the standard of proof in expatriation proceedings. The specific evidentiary standard provided in § 349(c) is not invalid under either the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Although the Due Process Clause imposes requirements of proof beyond a preponderance of the evidence in criminal and involuntary commitment contexts, nevertheless expatriation proceedings are civil in nature, and do not threaten a loss of liberty, and thus Congress did not exceed its powers by requiring proof of an intentional expatriating act by only a preponderance of evidence. Pp. 264-267.

3. Nor is the presumption of voluntariness provided in § 349(c) constitutionally infirm. While the statute provides that any of the statutory expatriating acts, if proved, is presumed to have been committed [100 S.Ct. 542] voluntarily, it does not also direct a presumption that the act has been performed with the intent to relinquish United States citizenship, which matter remains the burden of the party claiming expatriation to prove by a preponderance of the evidence. Section 349(c) and its legislative history make clear that Congress preferred the ordinary rule that voluntariness of an act is presumed and that duress is an affirmative defense to be proved by the party asserting it, and to invalidate the rule here would give the Citizenship Clause far more scope in this context than the relevant circumstances that brought the Fourteenth Amendment into being would suggest appropriate. Pp. 267-270.

577 F.2d 7, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., post, p. 270, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 272, filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in Part II of which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 274. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 270.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 349(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), 66 Stat. 267, 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(2), provides that

a person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by . . . taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof.

The Act also provides that the party claiming that such loss of citizenship occurred must "establish such claim by a preponderance of the evidence," and that the voluntariness of the expatriating conduct is rebuttably presumed. § 349(c), as added, 75 Stat. 656, 8 U.S.C. § 1481(c).1 The

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issues in this case are whether, in establishing loss of citizenship under § 1481(a)(2), a party must prove an intent to surrender United States citizenship and whether the United States Constitution permits Congress to legislate with respect to expatriation proceedings by providing the standard of proof and the statutory presumption contained in § 1481(c).

I

Appellee, Laurence J. Terrazas, was born in this country, the son of a Mexican citizen. He thus acquired at birth both United States and Mexican citizenship. In the fall of 1970, while a student in Monterrey, Mexico, and at the age of 22, appellee executed an application for a certificate of Mexican nationality, swearing "adherence, obedience, and submission to the laws and authorities of the Mexican Republic" and

expressly renounc[ing] United States citizenship, as well as any submission, obedience, and loyalty to any foreign government, especially to that of the United States of America. . . .

App. to Brief for Appellant 5a.2 The certificate, which issued upon this application on April 3, [100 S.Ct. 543] 1971, recited that Terrazas had sworn adherence to the United Mexican States and that he

has expressly renounced all rights inherent to any other nationality, as well as all submission, obedience, and loyalty to any foreign government, especially to those which have recognized him as that national.

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Id. at 8a. Terrazas read and understood the certificate upon receipt. App. to Juris.Statement 21a.

A few months later, following a discussion with an officer of the United States Consulate in Monterrey, proceedings were instituted to determine whether appellee had lost his United States citizenship by obtaining the certificate of Mexican nationality. Appellee denied that he had, but, in December, 1971, the Department of State issued a certificate of loss of nationality. App. to Brief for Appellant 31a. The Board of Appellate Review of the Department of State, after a full hearing, affirmed that appellee had voluntarily renounced his United States citizenship. App. to Juris.Statement 31a. As permitted by § 360(a) of the Act, 66 Stat. 273, 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a), appellee then brought this suit against the Secretary of State for a declaration of his United States nationality. Trial was de novo.

The District Court recognized that the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment,3 as construed in Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253, 268 (1967), "`protect[s] every citizen of this Nation against a congressional forcible destruction of his citizenship,'" and that every citizen has "`a constitutional right to remain a citizen . . . unless he voluntarily relinquishes that citizenship.'" App. to Juris.Statement 25a. A person of dual nationality, the District Court said,

will be held to have expatriated himself from the United States when it is shown that he voluntarily committed an act whereby he unequivocally renounced his allegiance to the United States.

Ibid. Specifically, the District Court found that appellee had taken an oath of allegiance to Mexico, that he had

knowingly and understandingly renounced allegiance to the United States in connection with his Application for a Certificate of Mexican Nationality,

id. at 28a, and that

[t]he taking of

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an oath of allegiance to Mexico and renunciation of a foreign country [sic] citizenship is a condition precedent under Mexican law to the issuance of a Certificate of Mexican Nationality.

Ibid. The District Court concluded that the United States had

proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Laurence J. Terrazas knowingly, understandingly and voluntarily took an oath of allegiance to Mexico, and concurrently renounced allegiance to the United States,

id. at 29a, and that he had therefore "voluntarily relinquished United States citizenship pursuant to § 349(a)(2) of the . . . Act." Ibid.

In its opinion accompanying its findings and conclusions, the District Court observed that appellee had acted "voluntarily in swearing allegiance to Mexico and renouncing allegiance to the United States," id. at 25a, and that appellee "knew he was repudiating allegiance to the United States through his actions." Ibid. The...

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