MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari in these cases to resolve a conflict between the Second and Ninth Circuits on their interpretations of § 241 (f) of the Immigration and
Section 241 (f) reads as follows:
The issue is whether the statute saves from deportation an alien who misrepresents his status for the purpose of evading quota restrictions, if he has the necessary familial relationship to a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Respondent Errico in No. 54, a native of Italy, falsely represented to the immigration authorities that he was a skilled mechanic with specialized experience in repairing foreign automobiles. On the basis of that misrepresentation he was granted first preference quota status under the statutory preference scheme then in effect, and entered the United States in 1959 with his wife. A child was born to the couple in 1960 and acquired United States citizenship at birth. In 1963 deportation proceedings were commenced against Errico on the ground that he was excludable at the time of entry as not "of the proper status under the quota specified in the immigrant visa."
Petitioner Scott in No. 91, a native of Jamaica, contracted a marriage with a United States citizen by proxy solely for the purpose of obtaining nonquota status for entry into the country. She has never lived with her husband and never intended to do so. After entering the United States in 1958, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, who became an American citizen at birth. When the fraud was discovered, deportation proceedings were begun, and a special inquiry officer of the Immigration and Naturalization Service found her deportable on the ground that she was not a nonquota immigrant as specified in her visa.
At the outset it should be noted that even the Government agrees that § 241 (f) cannot be applied with strict literalness. Literally, § 241 (f) applies only when the alien is charged with entering in violation of § 212 (a)(19) of the statute, which excludes from entry "[a]ny alien who . . . has procured a visa or other documentation. . . by fraud, or by willfully misrepresenting a material fact."
The sharp divergence of opinion among the circuit judges in these cases indicates that the meaning of the words "otherwise admissible" is not obvious. An interpretation of these words requires close attention to the language of § 241 (f), to the language of its predecessor, § 7 of the 1957 Act,
The legislative history begins with the enactment of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, 62 Stat. 1009. This Act provided for the admission to the United States of thousands of war refugees, many from countries that had fallen behind the Iron Curtain. Some of these refugees misrepresented their nationality or homeland while in Europe to avoid being repatriated to a Communist country. In so doing, however, they fell afoul of § 10 of the Act, which provided that persons making willful misrepresentations for the purpose of gaining admission "shall thereafter not be admissible into the United States." The plight of these refugees, who were excluded from the United States for misrepresentations that were generally felt to be justifiable, inspired recurring proposals for statutory reform. When the Act was revised and codified in 1952, the House Committee recommended adding a provision to save such refugees from deportation when they had misrepresented their nationality or homeland only to avoid repatriation and persecution.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Attorney General did not construe the statute as the Conference Committee had recommended, believing that the explicit statutory language did not allow for an exemption for justifiable misrepresentations. Refugees who misrepresented their place of origin were always found to have concealed a material fact, since the misrepresentation hindered an investigation of their background.
The misrepresentation section was not the only provision of the 1952 legislation that was widely thought to be unnecessarily harsh and restrictive, and in 1957 Congress passed legislation alleviating in many respects the stricter provisions of the earlier legislation. The purpose of the 1957 Act is perfectly clear from its terms, as well as from the relevant House and Senate Committee
In this context it is not surprising that Congress also granted relief to aliens facing exclusion or deportation
This section waived deportation under certain circumstances for two classes of aliens who had entered by fraud or misrepresentation. First, an alien who was "the spouse, parent, or a child of a United States citizen. . ." was saved from deportation for his fraud if he was "otherwise admissible at the time of entry." Second, an alien who entered during the postwar period and misrepresented his nationality, place of birth, identity, or residence was saved from deportation if he was "otherwise admissible at the time of entry" and if he could
This language would be meaningless if an alien who committed fraud for the purpose of evading quota restrictions would be deportable as not "otherwise admissible at the time of entry." Congress must have felt that aliens who evaded quota restrictions by fraud would be "otherwise admissible at the time of entry" or it would not have found it necessary to provide further that, in the case of an alien not possessing a close familial relationship to a United States citizen or lawful permanent
This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that Congress further specified that the aliens who were not close relatives of United States citizens must establish that their fraud was not committed for the purpose of evading an investigation. Fraud for the purpose of evading an investigation, if forgiven by the statute, would clearly leave the alien "otherwise admissible" if there were no other disqualifying factor. Elementary principles of statutory construction lead to the conclusion that Congress meant to specify two specific types of fraud that would leave an alien "otherwise admissible" but that would nonetheless bar relief to those aliens who could not claim close relationship with a United States citizen or alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
The present § 241 (f) is essentially a re-enactment of § 7 of the 1957 Act. The legislative history leaves no doubt that no substantive change in the section was intended.
The intent of § 7 of the 1957 Act not to require that aliens who are close relatives of United States citizens have complied with quota restrictions to escape deportation for their fraud is clear from its language, and there is nothing in the legislative history to suggest that Congress had in mind a contrary result. The only specific
Without doubt most of the aliens who had obtained entry into the United States by illegal means were Mexicans, because it has always been far easier to avoid border restrictions when entering from Mexico than when entering from countries that do not have a common land border with the United States. There is nothing in the Committee Report to indicate that relief under the section was intended to be restricted to Mexicans, however. Neither does it follow that, because Mexicans are not subject to quota restrictions, therefore nationals of countries that do have a quota must be within the quota to obtain relief.
The construction of the statute that we adopt in these cases is further reinforced when the section is regarded in the context of the 1957 Act. The fundamental purpose of this legislation was to unite families. Refugees from Communist lands were also benefited, but the Act principally granted relief to persons who would be temporarily or permanently separated from their nearest relatives if the strict requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act, including the national quotas, were not relaxed for them. It was wholly consistent with this purpose for Congress to provide that immigrants who gained admission by misrepresentation, perhaps many years ago, should not be deported because their countries' quotas were oversubscribed when they entered if the
Even if there were some doubt as to the correct construction of the statute, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the alien. As this Court has held, even where a punitive section is being construed:
See also Barber v. Gonzales, 347 U.S. 637, 642-643. The 1957 Act was not a punitive statute, and § 7 of that Act, now codified as § 241 (f), in particular was designed to accomplish a humanitarian result. We conclude that to give meaning to the statute in the light of its humanitarian purpose of preventing the breaking up of families composed in part at least of American citizens, the conflict between the circuits must be resolved in favor of the aliens, and that the Errico decision must be affirmed and the Scott decision reversed.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, with whom MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and MR. JUSTICE WHITE join, dissenting.
The facts in one of these cases (No. 91) vividly illustrate the effect of the Court's interpretation of § 241 (f)
The Court holds that this unsavory series of events gives the petitioner an unqualified right under § 241 (f) to remain in this country ahead of all the honest people waiting in Jamaica and elsewhere to gain lawful entry.
Section 241 (f) provides as follows:
It seems clear to me, for two separate and independently sufficient reasons, that this statute does not operate to bar the deportation of the aliens in the cases now
Section 241 (f) by its terms neutralizes only those "provisions . . . relating to the deportation of aliens within the United States on the ground that they . . . sought to procure . . . entry into the United States by fraud or misrepresentation . . . ." Although the aliens in these two cases could have been deported under those "provisions," the deportation proceedings in both cases were in fact brought on grounds unrelated to their procurement of fraudulent visas. Both aliens were ordered to be deported, not because of their fraud, but because they were not properly within their countries' quotas.
The plain terms of § 241 (f), therefore, do not even potentially apply to these aliens.
But even if § 241 (f) were generally applicable, these aliens could not claim its benefits because they were not within their respective national immigration quotas and therefore were not "otherwise admissible" at the time they entered the United States. That is the clear import of the statutory qualification, if its words are to be taken at their face value. That, too, has been the uniform and consistent administrative construction of the statute. See Matter of D'O—, 8 I. & N. Dec. 215 (1958); Matter of Slade, 10 I. & N. Dec. 128 (1962).
To except quota requirements of admissibility from the statutory qualification of "otherwise admissible" would undercut the elaborate quota system which was for years at the heart of the immigration laws. Yet the legislative history of the predecessor of § 241 (f), § 7 of the 1957 Act, makes clear that the limited relief given by the statute was to have no effect at all on the quota system.
Thus the plain meaning of the "otherwise admissible" qualification, as well as legislative policy and legislative history, all indicate that the term serves the same basic function in § 241 (f) as in other sections of the Act. Fraud is removed as a ground for deportation of those with the requisite family ties, and "otherwise admissible" insures the integrity of the remainder of the statutory scheme.
I respectfully dissent.
Pub. L. 89-236, 79 Stat. 911, made substantial changes in the quota system. But that statute, passed in 1965, hardly indicates a congressional intent in 1957 or in 1961 (when the present statute was revised) to abandon quota requirements.
Section 7 of the earlier Act provided as follows:
"The provisions of section 241 of the Immigration and Nationality Act relating to the deportation of aliens within the United States on the ground that they were excludable at the time of entry as (1) aliens who have sought to procure, or have procured visas or other documentation, or entry into the United States by fraud or misrepresentation, or (2) aliens who were not of the nationality specified in their visas, shall not apply to an alien otherwise admissible at the time of entry who . . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
If the present meaning of "otherwise admissible" is to be determined by the 1957 Act, so then must other parts of the statute be similarly determined. Section 241 (f) begins with words almost identical to those quoted above. But the second ground of applicability—to "aliens who were not of the nationality specified in their visas"—is omitted. Thus, lies about nationality were not forgiven by the first part of the 1957 Act and are not, by the Court's reasoning, excused by § 241 (f), the successor statute. And since there is nothing to distinguish lies about nationality that avoid quota restrictions from other lies with the same effect, the reasoning that leads to the Court's conclusion that the aliens were "otherwise admissible" leads also to the conclusion that § 241 (f) is not applicable at all in these cases.