Opinion of the Court by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, announced by MR. JUSTICE HARLAN.
Petitioner, a native of Hungary, was admitted to citizenship by a decree of the District Court in 1940. Respondent filed a complaint to revoke and set aside that
One question, on a form petitioner filled out in connection with his petition for naturalization, asked if he had ever been "arrested or charged with violation of any law of the United States or State or any city ordinance or traffic regulation" and if so to give full particulars. To
The District Court found that from 10 to 11 years before petitioner was naturalized he had been arrested three times as follows:
(1) On July 30, 1929, he was arrested for distributing handbills in New Haven, Connecticut, in violation of an ordinance. He pleaded not guilty and was discharged.
(2) On December 21, 1929, he was arrested for violating the park regulations in New Haven, Connecticut, by making "an oration, harangue, or other public demonstration in New Haven Green, outside of the churches." Petitioner pleaded not guilty. Disposition of the charge is not clear, the notation on the court record reading "Found J. S." which respondent suggests may mean "Judgment Suspended" after a finding of guilt.
(3) On March 11, 1930, he was again arrested in New Haven and this time charged with "General Breach of the Peace." He was found guilty by the City Court and fined $25. He took an appeal and the records show "nolled April 7, 1930."
Acquisition of American citizenship is a solemn affair. Full and truthful response to all relevant questions required by the naturalization procedure is, of course, to be exacted, and temporizing with the truth must be vigorously discouraged. Failure to give frank, honest, and unequivocal answers to the court when one seeks naturalization is a serious matter. Complete replies are essential so that the qualifications of the applicant or his lack of them may be ascertained. Suppressed or concealed facts, if known, might in and of themselves justify
On the other hand, in view of the grave consequences to the citizen, naturalization decrees are not lightly to be set aside—the evidence must indeed be "clear, unequivocal, and convincing" and not leave "the issue . . . in doubt." Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, 125, 158; Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 670. The issue in these cases is so important to the liberty of the citizen that the weight normally given concurrent findings of two lower courts does not preclude reconsideration here, for we deal with "judgments lying close to opinion regarding the whole nature of our Government and the duties and immunities of citizenship." Baumgartner v. United States, supra, 671. And see Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 612 and (concurring opinion) 617.
While disclosure of them was properly exacted, the arrests in these cases were not reflections on the character of the man seeking citizenship. The statute in force at the time of his naturalization required that "he has behaved as a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States" during the previous five years.
It is argued, however, that disclosure of the arrests made in New Haven, Connecticut, in the years 1929 and 1930 would have led to a New Haven investigation at which leads to other evidence—more relevant and material than the arrests—might have been obtained. His residence in New Haven was from February 1929 to November 1930. Since that period was more than five years before his petition for naturalization, the name of his employer at that time was not required by the form prepared by the Service. It is now said, however, that if the arrests had been disclosed and investigated, the Service might well have discovered that petitioner in 1929 was "a district organizer" of the Communist Party in Connecticut. One witness in this denaturalization proceeding testified that such was the fact. An arrest, though by no means probative of any guilt or wrongdoing, is sufficiently significant as an episode in a man's life that it may often be material at least to further enquiry. We do not minimize the importance of that disclosure. In this case, however, we are asked to base materiality on
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, with whom MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER and MR. JUSTICE STEWART join, dissenting.
Petitioner swore in his application for naturalization that he had never been under arrest when in fact he had been arrested in New Haven, Connecticut, on three separate occasions within an eight-month period. The arrests were for distributing handbills in a public street, making "an oration, harangue, or other public demonstration" in a public park and a "general breach of the peace." Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals have found that petitioner's falsification "was an intentional concealment of a material fact and a willful misrepresentation which foreclosed the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the district court from making a further investigation as to whether he had all the qualifications for citizenship . . . ." These findings, as such, are not disputed. It is nowhere suggested, for example, that the petitioner's falsehoods were the result of inadvertence or forgetfulness—that they were anything but deliberate lies. This Court, however, brushes these findings aside on the ground
The Court first says that arrests of this nature, "the crimes charged, and the disposition of the cases do not bring them, inherently, even close to the requirement of `clear, unequivocal, and convincing' evidence that naturalization was illegally procured." The Court, of course, knows that this is not the applicable test where one has deliberately falsified his papers and thus foreclosed further investigation. This basis for the reversal, therefore, misses the point involved and should have been of no consequence here.
The test is not whether the truthful answer in itself, or the facts discovered through an investigation prompted by that answer, would have justified a denial of citizenship. It is whether the falsification, by misleading the examining officer, forestalled an investigation which might have resulted in the defeat of petitioner's application for naturalization. The Courts of Appeals are without disagreement on this point
The Court concludes that the false denial of prior arrests was "neutral" because the petitioner revealed in his preliminary application that he was an employee of the International Workers Order, which the Court adds, "is said to be controlled by the Communist Party." What the Court fails to point out is that the sole evidence, in this record, as to the International Workers Order was presented in 1955, 15 years after petitioner's deception of the examiner. There is no evidence that the examiner knew anything about that organization other than what
As I read the record, it clearly supports the findings of the two courts below. Even if petitioner had told the truth, and the conduct causing the arrests was found not to relate to his present fitness for naturalization, it does not follow that citizenship would have been awarded. It might well have been that in checking on the handbills, the harangue in the public park, and the general breach of the peace the investigator would have been led to discover that petitioner was, in 1940, a leader in the Communist Party. I think it more logical than not that the Government would have discovered petitioner's Communist affiliations through such an investigation, and that the deliberate falsification in 1940 forestalled this revelation
I would affirm.
"It shall be the duty of the United States attorneys for the respective districts, upon affidavit showing good cause therefor, to institute proceedings in any court specified in subsection (a) of section 310 of this title [§ 1421 of 8 U. S. C.] in the judicial district in which the naturalized citizen may reside at the time of bringing suit, for the purpose of revoking and setting aside the order admitting such person to citizenship and canceling the certificate of naturalization on the ground that such order and certificate of naturalization were procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation, and such revocation and setting aside of the order admitting such person to citizenship and such canceling of certificate of naturalization shall be effective as of the original date of the order and certificate, respectively . . . ."