NORRIS, Circuit Judge:
These are three more in a series of Filipino war veteran cases arising under §§ 701-705 of the Nationality Act of 1940, Pub.L. No. 76-853, Ch. 199, 54 Stat. 1137, as amended by Pub.L. No. 77-507 § 1001, 56 Stat. 182 ("1940 Act"). Appellants are all Filipino veterans who served honorably in the United States armed services during World War II. They claim that they are entitled to United States citizenship under the 1940 Act because they were denied due process of law when the United States Attorney General removed an authorized naturalization officer from the Philippines in October 1945. They also contend that the government is collaterally estopped by the judgment in Matter of Naturalization of 68 Filipino War Veterans, 406 F.Supp. 931 (N.D.Cal.1975) ("68 Filipinos") from relitigating their due process claims. The district courts denied all petitions. We reverse and grant the petitions.
The history of this litigation is discussed at length in Mendoza v. United States, 672 F.2d 1320 (9th Cir.1982) and 68 Filipinos. We repeat it briefly here.
In March 1942, Congress amended the Nationality Act of 1940, Pub.L. No. 76-853, 54 Stat. 1137, to provide for naturalization of non-citizens who served honorably in the United States armed forces. 56 Stat. 182 (repealed 66 Stat. 280, June 27, 1952). As amended, the 1940 Act exempted alien servicemen from certain of the usual naturalization requirements, id. at § 701, and provided for overseas naturalization of servicemen on active duty. Id. at § 702. As further amended, the Act required that all petitions for naturalization under §§ 701 and 702 be filed by December 31, 1946. Act of Dec. 28, 1945, Pub.L. No. 79-270, § 202(c)(1), 59 Stat. 658 (repealed 66 Stat. 280, June 27, 1952).
In early August 1945, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) designated George Ennis, Vice Consul in Manila, to naturalize Filipino servicemen under the 1940 Act. But when the Philippine government expressed concern that naturalizations under the Act would drain the country of much-needed manpower, the Attorney General revoked Vice Consul Ennis' naturalization authority. As a result, between October 1945 and August 1946, no INS official was present in the Philippines to naturalize eligible servicemen.
In 1975, the claims of 68 Filipino war veterans, whose petitions for naturalization pursuant to the 1940 Act had been denied by the INS, were joined in district court. Matter of Naturalization of 68 Filipino War Veterans, 406 F.Supp. 931 (N.D.Cal.1975) (Renfrew, J.). Judge Renfrew divided the petitioners into two relevant categories: those who had taken some action to be naturalized in the Philippines prior to December 31, 1946, but had not been processed by the INS (Category I), and those who had taken no action to be naturalized in the Philippines (Category II)
Appellant Pangilinan is one of fourteen Filipino veterans whose petitions were consolidated on appeal. We treat all fourteen as "Category II" veterans on the basis of a stipulation that their petitions raise issues identical to those raised by the "Category II" veterans in 68 Filipinos. All served honorably in the United States armed forces; all were in the Philippines on active service for some or all of the time that naturalization authority was withdrawn; and none took steps to become naturalized while in the Philippines.
We also conclude that appellant Litonjua should be treated as a "Category II" veteran
Because the theory of Barretto's claim differs from that of Pangilinan and Litonjua, we treat the status of his naturalization petition in Part III.
Although Litonjua and the Pangilinan petitioners are "Category II" veterans, the district judges below declined to estop the government from relitigating the issues decided in 68 Filipinos. Instead, they reached the merits of appellants' constitutional claims, and, relying on Olegario v. United States, 629 F.2d 204 (2d Cir.1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 980, 101 S.Ct. 1513, 67 L.Ed.2d 814 (1981), denied the veterans' petitions. In so doing, they acted without the benefit of our decision in Mendoza v. United States, 672 F.2d 1320 (9th Cir.1982), in which we affirmed a district court judgment collaterally estopping the government on precisely these facts. Accordingly, the threshold legal question in the Litonjua and Pangilinan appeals is the effect of our decision in Mendoza on the question whether the government should be precluded from relitigating issues decided in 68 Filipinos
To support its claim of unfairness, the government in Mendoza first asserted that it had prematurely withdrawn its appeal in 68 Filipinos because it had grossly underestimated the number of Filipinos who would become eligible for naturalization under its holding. We found no record support, however, for the contention that, after withdrawing its appeal, the government discovered that as many as 60,000-80,000 Filipino veterans could be expected to petition for naturalization in reliance upon Judge Renfrew's decision in 68 Filipinos. The government, for instance, did not indicate how many of those potential applicants had in fact petitioned after 68 Filipinos was decided in 1975, or how many of those veterans actually eligible to petition were realistically likely to do so nearly 40 years after the end of World War II. In fact, the record suggested that only a very few Filipinos had taken advantage of the opportunity; congressional testimony by INS officials indicated that no more than 100 Filipinos had applied for naturalization as of 1978. 672 F.2d at 1327. In the cases now before us, the government has made no effort to challenge that testimony or otherwise bolster its claim of unfairness; in fact, at oral argument the government formally abandoned its contention that the issues in 68 Filipinos should be relitigated because it had grossly miscalculated the impact of that decision on the number of naturalization petitions from Filipino war veterans it could expect to receive.
The merits of these arguments were thus fully considered in Mendoza, and need not be reconsidered here. We now address the government's sole remaining argument
Absent a change in circumstances, which the government has neither claimed nor demonstrated, therefore, Mendoza must control the disposition of the Pangilinan and Litonjua appeals. We conclude that our determination in Mendoza that it is not unfair to estop the government from contesting the naturalization petitions of "Category II" veterans is binding in these cases as stare decisis. To permit district courts in the Ninth Circuit to redetermine the issue of fairness after our decision in Mendoza — and thus treat identically situated "Category II" veterans differently from Dr. Mendoza — would be abhorrent to the principles of consistency and fairness that underlie the doctrine of stare decisis, see Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Co., 448 U.S. 261, 272, 100 S.Ct. 2647, 2656, 65 L.Ed.2d 757 (1980), and would undermine "public faith in the judiciary as a source of impersonal and reasoned judgments." Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc. 398 U.S. 375, 403, 90 S.Ct. 1772, 1789, 26 L.Ed.2d 339 (1970).
For the foregoing reasons, therefore, we hold that the government is collaterally estopped from relitigating against these "Category II" veterans the issues decided in 68 Filipinos
We now turn to Appellant Barretto's petition. Barretto joined the United States armed forces in August 1941. He saw active duty in Central Luzon, Bataan and Corregidor and was imprisoned by the Japanese from May 1942 to November 1943. In February 1945, Barretto was assigned to flight training duty in the United States. While there, he tried to file a preliminary application for naturalization under the 1940 Act, but the INS would not accept his application because it lacked the signature of his commanding officer.
Barretto filed this petition for naturalization in June 1977, and the government withdrew its 68 Filipinos appeal in November 1977. Because several Filipino veterans apparently agreed with the INS to hold their claims in abeyance pending the outcome of the appeal in 68 Filipinos, the government has adopted a "grandfather" policy of granting any petitions filed by "Category II" veterans before withdrawal of the 68 Filipinos appeal.
The district court held that Barretto is not a "Category II" veteran because he was not prejudiced by the government's withdrawal of naturalization authority from the Philippines. The district court reasoned that Barretto was in the United States during much of the period that a naturalization officer was absent from the Philippines; that Barretto was stationed in the Philippines and eligible for naturalization under § 702 for only twenty days of that period; and that Barretto testified that he made no attempt to inquire about naturalization after he returned to the Philippines.
We cannot agree that Barretto is disqualified from relief because he was in the Philippines and eligible for naturalization under § 702 for only twenty days. In Mendoza, we found that Dr. Mendoza's presence in the Philippines for as much as three months, after having been in the United States for several months, was sufficient to implicate Dr. Mendoza's due process rights, 672 F.2d at 1326 n. 8; we know of no principled basis — and the government offers none — for drawing a line between three months in Dr. Mendoza's case and three weeks in this case. If the government's conduct violated the constitutional rights of Filipinos serving in the United States armed forces in the Philippines, it violated their rights whether they were in the Philippines for nine months or nine days.
Nor do we agree that Barretto's failure to inquire about naturalization upon his return to the Philippines disqualifies him from relief as a "Category II" veteran. None of the "Category II" veterans in 68 Filipinos had taken steps to be naturalized, and we see no reason to distinguish Barretto's inaction from theirs simply because Barretto knew of his right to naturalization
The judgments of the district courts are REVERSED and the naturalization petitions of all appellants in these consolidated appeals are GRANTED.