JUSTICE SCALIA announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court as to Parts I, II-A, and III-A, and an opinion as to Parts II-B and III-B, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE BRENNAN joined and in Part III-B of which JUSTICE O'CONNOR joined.
Juozas Kungys seeks our review of a judgment and opinion of the Third Circuit remanding his case for the completion of denaturalization proceedings. The issues presented are: first, whether certain misrepresentations or concealments made by Kungys in connection with his naturalization proceeding were material within the meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, § 340(a), 66 Stat. 260, as amended, 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a), and Chaunt v. United States, 364 U.S. 350 (1960); and second, whether those misrepresentations, made under oath and in the form of forged documents, rendered Kungys' citizenship "illegally procured" under 8 U. S. C. §§ 1101(f)(6), 1427(a)(3), and 1451(a), because they
Petitioner applied for an immigration visa in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1947. In 1948, the visa was issued, and he came to the United States; he was naturalized as a citizen in 1954. In 1982, the United States, acting through the Office of Special Investigations of the Department of Justice, filed a complaint pursuant to 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a) to denaturalize him.
Second, the United States attempted to show that, in applying for his visa and in his naturalization petition, Kungys had made false statements with respect to his date and place of birth, wartime occupations, and wartime residence. The
Third, the United States argued that Kungys' citizenship had been "illegally procured" under § 1451(a) because when he was naturalized he lacked the good moral character required of applicants for citizenship by 8 U. S. C. § 1427(a).
We granted certiorari, 479 U.S. 947 (1986), and heard argument last Term, on the question of what materiality standard applies to the "concealment or misrepresentation" clause of § 1451(a) and the false testimony provision of § 1101(f)(6) as incorporated by the "illegally procured" clause of § 1451(a). On June 26, 1987, we restored the case to the calendar and directed parties to file supplemental briefs addressing certain questions.
As noted above, 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a) provides for the denaturalization of citizens whose citizenship orders and certificates of naturalization "were procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation . . . ." This Court has previously suggested, and the parties do not dispute, that this requires misrepresentations or concealments that are both willful and material. See Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490, 507-508, n. 28 (1981). So understood, the provision plainly contains four independent requirements: the naturalized citizen must have misrepresented or concealed some fact, the misrepresentation or concealment must have been willful, the fact must have been material, and the naturalized citizen must have procured citizenship as a result of the misrepresentation or concealment. It is no longer in dispute that the first two of these requirements were met here, since petitioner now concedes that he willfully misrepresented the date and place of his birth in his naturalization proceeding in 1954 as well as in applying for his visa in 1947.
With the wisdom of experience, we now conclude that the attempts to construct a standard from the Chaunt dicta have been both unnecessary and unfortunate. The term "material" in § 1451(a) is not a hapax legomenon. Its use in the context of false statements to public officials goes back as far as Lord Coke, who defined the crime of perjury as follows:
Blackstone used the same term, writing that in order to constitute "the crime of wilful and corrupt perjury" the false statement "must be in some point material to the question in dispute; for if it only be in some trifling collateral circumstance, to which no regard is paid," it is not punishable. 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *137. See also 1 W. Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown, ch. 27, § 8, p. 433 (Curwood ed. 1824). Given these common-law antecedents, it is unsurprising that a number of federal statutes criminalizing false statements to public officials use the term "material." The most
We hold, therefore, that the test of whether Kungys' concealments or misrepresentations were material is whether they had a natural tendency to influence the decisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. To determine the effect of this holding upon our disposition of the present case, we must first consider whether materiality under § 1451(a) is an issue of law, which we may decide for ourselves, or one of fact, which must be decided by the trial court. Here again we see no reason not to follow what has been done with the materiality requirement under other statutes dealing with misrepresentations to public officers. "[T]he materiality of what is falsely sworn, when an element in the crime of perjury, is one for the court." Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263, 298 (1929). As the Sixth Circuit has said in a case involving 18 U. S. C. § 1001:
We turn, then, to whether the one misrepresentation on which the trial court's finding was considered and upheld by the Third Circuit — misrepresentation of the date and place of
Looking, therefore, solely to the question whether Kungys' misrepresentation of the date and place of his birth in his naturalization petition was material within the meaning of § 1451(a), we conclude that it was not. There has been no suggestion that those facts were themselves relevant to his qualifications for citizenship. Even though they were not, the misrepresentation of them would have a natural tendency to influence the citizenship determination, and thus be a misrepresentation of material facts, if the true date and place of birth would predictably have disclosed other facts relevant to his qualifications.
It seems to us not so clear that, had Kungys explained his earlier misstatement of date and place of birth as he has here, see n. 5, supra, the discrepancy would likely have produced either "outright denial" or an investigation, or that an investigation would have produced the described outcome.
We leave it to the Third Circuit on remand to determine whether the other misrepresentations or concealments that the District Court found to have been made in 1954 were supported by the evidence and material to the naturalization decision under the standard we have described — bearing in mind the unusually high burden of proof in denaturalization cases. Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 670 (1944); Schneiderman, 320 U. S., at 158. If so, it will have to reach the fourth § 1451(a) issue described in our earlier analysis: whether Kungys "procured" his citizenship by means of those misrepresentations or concealments. That requirement demands, first of all, that citizenship be obtained as a result of the application process in which the misrepresentations or concealments were made. The difficult question, and that on which we part company with JUSTICE STEVENS' opinion concurring in the judgment, is what it demands beyond that. We do not agree with petitioner's contention that it requires the Government to establish that naturalization would not have been granted if the misrepresentations or concealments had not occurred. If such a "but for" causation requirement existed in § 1451(a), it is most unlikely that a materiality requirement would have been added as well — requiring, in addition to distortion of the decision, a natural tendency to distort the decision. Moreover, the difficulty of establishing "but for" causality, by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence many years after the fact, is so
JUSTICE STEVENS' concurrence would adopt a requirement of "but for" causality, emphasizing the necessity that the
The United States argues, as an alternative basis for affirming the Third Circuit's upholding of denaturalization, that Kungys' misrepresentations, made under oath and in the form of forged documents, rendered his citizenship "illegally procured" under 8 U. S. C. §§ 1101(f)(6), 1427(a)(3), and 1451(a). As discussed earlier, the alleged ground of "illegal procurement" is that Kungys lacked the requisite good moral character in 1954, at the time of his naturalization, because he had given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining benefits in both the visa and naturalization proceedings, in violation of § 1101(f)(6). In connection with this aspect of the judgment, we address only the issue considered (and resolved in the affirmative) by the Third Circuit: whether § 1101(f)(6) contains a materiality requirement for false testimony. We hold that it does not.
Under 8 U. S. C. § 1101(f)(6), a person shall be deemed not to be of good moral character if he "has given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining" immigration or naturalization benefits. On its face, § 1101(f)(6) does not distinguish between material and immaterial misrepresentations. Literally
The absence of a materiality requirement in § 1101(f)(6) can be explained by the fact that its primary purpose is not (like § 1451(a)) to prevent false pertinent data from being introduced into the naturalization process (and to correct the result of the proceedings where that has occured), but to identify lack of good moral character. The latter appears to some degree whenever there is a subjective intent to deceive, no matter how immaterial the deception. A literal reading of the statute does not produce draconian results, for several reasons. First, "testimony" is limited to oral statements made under oath. The United States concedes that it does not include "other types of misrepresentations or concealments, such as falsified documents or statements not made under oath." Supplemental Brief for United States 3. See, e. g., Sharaiha v. Hoy, 169 F.Supp. 598, 601 (SD Cal. 1959); Matter of Ngan, 10 I. & N. Dec. 725, 726 (1964); Matter of G — L — T —, 8 I. & N. Dec. 403, 404-405 (1959). See also Ensign v. Pennsylvania, 227 U.S. 592, 599 (1913). Second, § 1101(f)(6) applies to only those misrepresentations made with the subjective intent of obtaining immigration benefits. As the Government acknowledges:
Obviously, it will be relatively rare that the Government will be able to prove that a misrepresentation that does not have the natural tendency to influence the decision regarding
JUSTICE STEVENS would read a materiality requirement into § 1101(f) because in his view "[t]here is no `material' distinction," post, at 797, between the language of that provision and the language of § 10 of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 (DPA), which we found to contain a materiality requirement in Fedorenko. We think there is a world of difference between the two. First, the texts of the statutes are significantly different. Section 10 of the DPA uses the phrase "willfully make a misrepresentation." Our conclusion in Fedorenko that this contains a materiality requirement was grounded in the word "misrepresentation," which has been held to have that implication in many contexts — as the name of the common-law tort of misrepresentation (which requires a material falsehood) adequately demonstrates. Section 1101(f), by contrast, uses the phrase "giv[e] false testimony." While we do not say that statutory use of the term "false" or "falsity" can never imply a requirement of materiality, such a requirement is at least not so commonly associated with that term as it is with misrepresentation. In fact, we recently described falsity and materiality as separate requirements of misrepresentation, see Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U. S., at 238, 239-240, n. 17. Second, the statutory provisions differ in their purpose and their relationship to other provisions in their respective statutory schemes. Section 10 of the DPA,
Accordingly, it is clear that the Third Circuit erred in importing a materiality requirement into § 1101(f)(6). Nevertheless, we cannot affirm denaturalization under that section because the question whether any misrepresentation made by Kungys constituted "false testimony for the purpose of obtaining" immigration or naturalization benefits cannot be answered without resolving an additional question of law and an additional question of fact. The former, which we choose not to resolve ourselves, since the case must be remanded in any event, is whether Kungys' misrepresentations constituted "testimony." The latter, which must be resolved by the trier of fact, is whether in making the misrepresentations Kungys possessed the subjective intent of thereby obtaining immigration or naturalization benefits. See generally Pullman-Standard v. Swint, 456 U.S. 273, 288 (1982) (issues of intent are factual matters for the trier of fact); Berenyi v. District Director, INS, 385 U.S. 630, 634-635 (1967). We are unpersuaded by the United States' argument that Kungys' so-called pattern of lies establishes the illegal subjective intent of his alleged false testimony as a matter of law.
* * *
For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Third Circuit is reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE KENNEDY took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
JUSTICE BRENNAN, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion. I write separately, however, to spell out in more detail the showing I believe the Government must make to raise a presumption of ineligibility. The Court holds that a misrepresentation is material if it has "a natural tendency to produce the conclusion that the applicant was qualified" for citizenship. Ante, at 772. A misrepresentation or concealment can be said to have such a tendency, the Court explains, if honest representations "would predictably have disclosed other facts relevant to [the applicant's] qualifications." Ante, at 774. Proof by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence that the misrepresentation had this tendency raises a presumption of ineligibility, which the naturalized citizen is then called upon to rebut. Ante, at 777.
I agree with this construction of the statute. I wish to emphasize, however, that in my view a presumption of ineligibility does not arise unless the Government produces evidence sufficient to raise a fair inference that a statutory disqualifying fact actually existed. It is this fair inference of ineligibility, coupled with the fact that the citizen's misrepresentation necessarily frustrated the Government's investigative efforts, that in my mind justifies the burden-shifting presumption the Court employs. Evidence that simply raises the possibility that a disqualifying fact might have existed does not entitle the Government to the benefit of a presumption that the citizen was ineligible, for as we have repeatedly emphasized, citizenship is a most precious right, see, e. g., Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 611-612 (1949),
Because nothing in the Court's opinion is inconsistent with this standard, I join it.
American citizenship is "a right no less precious than life or liberty." Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 616-617 (1949) (Rutledge, J., concurring in result). For the native-born citizen it is a right that is truly inalienable. For the naturalized citizen, however, Congress has authorized a special procedure that may result in the revocation of citizenship. That statute provides that a certificate of naturalization may be canceled and an order granting citizenship revoked if the Government proves that "such order and certificate of naturalization were illegally procured or were procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation." 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a).
In this case the Government maintains that petitioner is subject to denaturalization because it has proved that he made certain misrepresentations in his 1947 Application for Immigration Visa (Quota), which he repeated in his October 23, 1953, Petition for Naturalization. He stated that his date of birth was October 4, 1913, when it in fact was September 21, 1915; he stated that his place of birth was Kaunas, Lithuania, when it was in fact Reistru. He asserted that he
In support of its position that petitioner's false statements in 1947 and 1953 justify his denaturalization the Government makes two separate legal arguments. First, it argues that the misrepresentations were "material" within the meaning of § 1451(a) and that they procured petitioner's citizenship. Second, the Government urges that petitioner's citizenship was "illegally procured," because his misrepresentations — even if not material — demonstrate that he lacked the requisite good moral character at the time of his application for citizenship. Neither argument is tenable.
Over a quarter of a century ago, in Chaunt v. United States, 364 U.S. 350 (1960), the Court considered a case in which the District Court found that petitioner had concealed his membership in the Communist Party as well as three arrests that, had they been disclosed, would have led to further investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Although the dissenting Justices thought that Chaunt's failure to tell the truth about his arrest record was sufficient reason to revoke his citizenship, see id., at 360, the majority
"Material" means "having real importance" or "great consequences." Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary 733 (1983). The adjective "material" is widely used to distinguish false statements that are actionable at law from those that are not. In the context of criminal false statements, the term "material" has been said to require that the false statement be one that had "a natural tendency to influence, or was capable of influencing, the decision of" the decisionmaking body to which it was addressed. See ante, at 770. In tort law, a misrepresentation is material if "a reasonable man would attach importance to its existence or nonexistence in determining his choice of action in the transaction in question." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 538, p. 80 (1977). In contract law, a misrepresentation is material if "it would be likely to induce a reasonable person to manifest his assent." Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 162, p. 439 (1981).
In all of these contexts, the use of the word "material" serves to distinguish the trivial from the substantive, drawing the line between statements that appear to be capable of
Our holding in Chaunt is also supported by the statutory requirement that there must be a causal connection between the misrepresentation and the award of citizenship. Section 1451(a) provides that the Government must demonstrate that the misrepresentation "procured" citizenship. That is, the statute requires that the Government demonstrate that it relied on the misrepresentation in deciding whether to allow the applicant to become a citizen. In imposing this causation requirement, the statute again merely tracks the law of actionable misrepresentation in other contexts. A material misrepresentation, that is, a statement not in accordance with the truth that a reasonable person would attach importance to in deciding whether to enter a contract, may form the basis for voiding or reforming the contract, but only if the contracting party in fact relied on the statement in entering the contract. Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 164. The material misrepresentation must have induced the recipient
If anything, the causation requirement of § 1451(a) is stricter than that in tort and contract law. The statute specifically requires that the material misrepresentation "procure" citizenship, not merely that it have been an inducement to granting citizenship. Thus it requires that the material misrepresentation must have had the effect of allowing the person to obtain citizenship when a truthful statement would have led directly or after investigation to the denial of citizenship. In other words, the Government must have relied on the statement in offering the defendant the opportunity to become a citizen. Although as is recognized in tort and contract law, it is likely that any material misrepresentation was relied on by the Government, this likelihood does not change the burden imposed by the statute.
In my opinion, the wisdom of experience has provided firm support for Chaunt's holding. Our construction of the denaturalization statute must be animated by our longstanding recognition of the severity of the sanction being sought. I firmly believe that denaturalization is far too heavy a sanction to impose on an otherwise innocent citizen for making false statements in 1947 and 1953. Without evidence of any wrongdoing before he came to the United States in 1948 or after he acquired his citizenship in 1954, the revocation of petitioner's citizenship — a punishment that is tantamount to exile or banishment — is patently excessive.
The wisdom of experience is further reflected in our prior cases imposing a special burden on the Government when it
Virtually ignoring the foregoing settled law, today the Court announces a new burden-shifting presumption that lowers the standard of proof required for the Government to prevail in a denaturalization proceeding. Under the Court's test, a misrepresentation or concealment is material if it concerned
Though joining the Court's opinion, JUSTICE BRENNAN would require more. He would not allow the Government the benefit of the presumption unless it first produced "evidence sufficient to raise a fair inference that a statutory disqualifying fact actually existed." Ante, at 783. Although JUSTICE BRENNAN imposes a burden of production on the Government, he agrees with the majority that the burden of ultimate persuasion rests with the defendant. Under JUSTICE BRENNAN's approach, however, the defendant at least has the benefit of knowing specifically what disqualifying fact must be rebutted. Both approaches require the defendant to rebut the existence of the presumed disqualifying fact — even demonstrating that there is a completely innocent explanation for the misrepresentation would not be sufficient to rebut the presumption.
The reasons why the Court has required the Government to carry a heavy burden of proof in denaturalization cases apply equally to the argument that petitioner is subject to denaturalization because his false statements demonstrate that he lacked good moral character in 1953.
As amended in 1961, § 1451(a) allows the Government to revoke the citizenship of anyone whose citizenship was "illegally procured." In Fedorenko, we held that citizenship had been illegally procured because the petitioner, a former armed concentration camp guard, was ineligible for the visa he had been issued under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 (DPA), 62 Stat. 1009. Because the naturalization statutes required applicants to be lawfully admitted to the United
In Fedorenko v. United States, we were called upon to interpret the language of § 10 of the DPA, which provided that "[a]ny person who shall willfully make a misrepresentation for the purpose of gaining admission into the United States as an eligible displaced person shall thereafter not be admissible into the United States." 62 Stat. 1013. We held, agreeing with the Government, that this provision applied "only [to] willful misrepresentations about `material' facts." 449 U. S., at 507. We found the implication of a materiality requirement in the DPA's willful misrepresentation section to follow logically from our construction of § 1451(a) as having such a requirement even though its plain language requires only that the misrepresentation have been willful. That same logic applies here. There is no "material" distinction between the language of the DPA at issue in Fedorenko and the language of § 1101(f)(6). See United States v. Sheshtawy, 714 F.2d 1038, 1041 (CA10 1983). It is implausible
In addition to requiring materiality, both § 10 of the DPA and § 1101(f)(6) require that the false statement have been made for the purpose of obtaining a benefit under the immigration and naturalization laws. The Government would have us adopt a subjective test of the individual's motive in any particular case, thus forcing the factfinder to inquire of the defendant in each case why the particular falsehood was asserted and insuring that many citizenship determinations would boil down to credibility battles. An objective test is far more reasonable. Under an objective approach, a false testimonial statement would be considered made "for the purpose of obtaining any benefits under [the immigration laws]" if it in fact had the effect of giving the defendant a benefit under the immigration laws. An objective test would eliminate the necessity of inquiring in each case whether a person lied about his or her date of birth for personal reasons,
It is obvious that there is some overlap between the scope of the misrepresentation and illegally-procured clauses of § 1451(a).
The Government attempted to prove the existence of a disqualifying fact before the District Court by introducing videotaped deposition testimony, which it asserted proved petitioner's participation in the Kedainiai atrocities. The District Court found the deposition testimony unreliable and admitted the depositions only for the limited purpose of establishing that the atrocities occurred.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I join Parts I, II-A, and III of JUSTICE SCALIA'S opinion in this case. For the reasons given in Part II of JUSTICE WHITE's opinion, however, I dissent from Part II-B of JUSTICE SCALIA's opinion. In my view, when the correct standard of materiality is applied to the facts of this case, the misrepresentations made by petitioner are properly viewed as material.
JUSTICE WHITE, dissenting.
In 1982, the Government filed a complaint to denaturalize petitioner. It set out three reasons why this action was justified. First, it tried to show that petitioner assisted in the arrest and execution of more than 2,000 civilians in Kedainiai, Lithuania, during a 2-month period in 1941. The Government offered three videotaped depositions taken in the Soviet Union as proof of this claim. Although the District Court observed that these depositions would strongly tend to prove the Government's case if they were admitted as evidence
The Government also showed that petitioner had made certain false statements in applying for his visa and in his naturalization petition. These false statements concerned his date and place of birth, his wartime occupations, and his wartime residence: petitioner added two years to his age and misstated the city in which he was born, listed various occupations that he was engaged in from 1942 to 1947 without listing that he was a bookkeeper for several of those years, and swore that he had resided in another city rather than in Kedainiai at the time these atrocities occurred. The District Court found that petitioner had indeed made these misrepresentations, but that they were immaterial under 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a) because the true facts, if known, would not themselves have warranted denial of a visa and would not have led to an investigation. See Chaunt v. United States, 364 U.S. 350 (1960). It therefore did not inquire into what an investigation might have uncovered.
Finally, the Government asserted that petitioner's false representations, whether or not material, were in themselves sufficient to show that petitioner did not have good moral character and that therefore he did not qualify for naturalization under 8 U. S. C. §§ 1427(a) and 1101(f)(6). The District Court rejected this claim also, ruling that because the false statements at issue were not material, they were not in themselves sufficient to prove that petitioner lacked good moral character.
The District Court accordingly entered judgment for petitioner. The Government appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed. Initially, the Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that misrepresentations must be material in order to constitute sufficient grounds for finding lack of "good moral character" under § 1101(f)(6). It disagreed with
This case has been argued and now reargued before this Court. The Court today reverses the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remands for further consideration of several issues. Although I agree with Parts I, II-A, and III-A of the Court's opinion, I disagree with other parts and with the result it reaches. I therefore dissent.
I would affirm the judgment below and grant the Government's petition for denaturalization. The Court holds, and I agree, that there was error in the holding below that petitioner's misrepresentations must be material in order to constitute sufficient grounds for finding that petitioner lacks "good moral character" under § 1101(f)(6). As the Court states, the statute "does not distinguish between material and immaterial misrepresentations," but instead "denominates a person to be of bad moral character on account of having given false testimony if he has told even the most immaterial of lies with the subjective intent of obtaining immigration or naturalization benefits." Ante, at 779-780. In addition to the language of § 1101(f)(6), which in itself compels this conclusion, the legislative history of the 1961 amendments to the statute, Pub. L. 87-301, § 18, 75 Stat. 656, shows that Congress sought to broaden, not restrict, the grounds upon which naturalization could be revoked.
Here, petitioner's false testimony was not confined to one occasion, nor did it concern only a single piece of evidence. And at no time before or during the naturalization process did petitioner voluntarily step forward and attempt to explain the reasons for his various misrepresentations. To the contrary, the facts as found by the District Court demonstrate clearly, unequivocally, and convincingly that petitioner engaged in a pattern of repeated misrepresentations and nondisclosures at both the visa application stage and during his naturalization proceedings. The District Court found:
Despite its recognition that materiality is not required by § 1101(f)(6), the Court declines to uphold the judgment below, and remands the case for further consideration of one point of law and one point of fact. Neither point is at all substantial. The point of law is whether petitioner's misrepresentations constituted "testimony" within the meaning of the statute. As the Court notes, the term "testimony" in § 1101(f)(6) has been construed as referring only to oral evidence, and thus as excluding the written documents submitted by petitioner in his naturalization petition. Yet petitioner in this case did make oral misrepresentations: he testified falsely when he swore under oath before a naturalization examiner that the contents of his naturalization forms were true. Deposition of Julius Goldberg, App. 145-162. See also Matter of Ngan, 10 I. & N. Dec. 725 (1964). Furthermore, he had testified falsely in order to obtain his visa into this country.
The point of fact is whether petitioner made these misrepresentations "for the purpose of obtaining any benefits" under the immigration and naturalization laws. There is no difficulty about this point either. The willful misrepresentations at issue here were made in the context of petitioner's naturalization petition and were made earlier at the visa
Because the Court declines to affirm the decision below on the basis of § 1101(f)(6), it finds it necessary to revisit the definition of the term "material" as it is used in § 1451(a). The Court today holds that the proper test of materiality is whether the misrepresentations "had a natural tendency to influence the decisions of the Immigration and Naturalization
To begin with, the Court finds it proper under § 1451(a) to consider only the misrepresentations petitioner made in his naturalization proceedings but not those made in his earlier visa proceedings. The view of the United States is much more persuasive: the misrepresentations made by petitioner at the visa stage were instrumental to his procuring naturalization, for by obtaining the visa petitioner obtained lawful admission to residence in this country, which is one requirement for naturalization under § 1429. See also Fedorenko, 449 U. S., at 518-520 (BLACKMUN, J., concurring in judgment). The Court responds that by that logic, any misrepresentation that helps an individual to obtain any prerequisite to naturalization, such as English literacy, would be considered material. These two things, however, are not the same, and the Court's supposed extension of its logic is merely foolish. The visa proceedings and the naturalization proceedings are intimately related not only because they both are proceedings governed by the same provisions of the immigration and naturalization laws, but also because the visa and the certificate of naturalization are obtained as part of the same process for obtaining citizenship, and both must be lawfully procured. For example, it is not mere residence in this country that is a prerequisite to naturalization, but residence after being "lawfully admitted." § 1429. It makes no sense, on the other hand, to speak of proceedings to attain "lawful" literacy skills or a "lawful" understanding of American history and government, as required under § 1423, and the statute does not speak in these terms but instead manifests complete and understandable indifference as to how the individual came by those proficiencies. Thus the visa proceedings can accurately be regarded as one crucial stage in the naturalization proceedings themselves, yet the time spent acquiring literacy skills or an understanding of American
Even if I were to accept the proposition that we should consider only the materiality of the misrepresentations that petitioner made in the naturalization proceedings, those misrepresentations surely had a natural tendency to influence the decisions of the INS. As an initial matter, there is no requirement that the Court focus only on petitioner's misrepresentations about his date and place of his birth and leave aside his other potentially more significant misrepresentations that were also identified by the District Court.
For these reasons, I would affirm the decision below on this ground also. At the very least I note that it is open to the trier of fact on remand to consider whether knowledge of petitioner's repeated and numerous misrepresentations would have had a natural tendency to influence the decisions of the INS.
As a final point, it should be emphasized that the Court of Appeals never passed on the correctness of the District Court's determination that the videotaped depositions could
I respectfully dissent.
"(a) 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 1421 of this title 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 illegally procured or were procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation. . . ."
"No person, except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, shall be naturalized unless such petitioner, (1) immediately preceding the date of filing his petition for naturalization has resided continuously, after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence, within the United States for at least five years and during the five years immediately preceding the date of filing his petition has been physically present therein for periods totaling at least half of that time, and who has resided within the State in which the petitioner filed the petition for at least six months, (2) has resided continuously within the United States from the date of the petition up to the time of admission to citizenship, and (3) during all the period referred to in this subsection has been and still is 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."
"(f) For the purposes of this chapter —
No person shall be regarded as, or found to be, a person of good moral character who, during the period for which good moral character is required to be established, is, or was —
(6) one who has given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining any benefits under this chapter."
" `(1) Whether petitioner is subject to denaturalization for want of good moral character under 8 U. S. C. §§ 1451(a), 1427(a), and 1101(f)(6), with particular attention to:
" `(a) whether the "false testimony" provision of 8 U. S. C. § 1101(f)(6) should be interpreted to include a requirement that the false testimony concern a material fact;
" `(b) what standards should govern the determination under 8 U. S. C. § 1101(f)(6) whether "false testimony" has been given "for the purpose of obtaining any benefits under this chapter . . . ."; and
" `(c) whether the latter determination is one of law or fact.
" `(2)(a) Should the materiality standard articulated in Chaunt v. United States, 364 U.S. 350 (1960), be abandoned and, if so, what standard should govern the materiality inquiry under 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a); and
" `(b) is the determination of materiality under 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a) one of law of fact.
" `(3) When a misrepresentation has been established as "material" within the meaning of 8 U. S. C. § 1451(a), must any further showing be made to establish that citizenship was "procured by" that misrepresentation.' " 483 U.S. 1017.
JUSTICE STEVENS is correct that "even demonstrating that there is a completely innocent explanation for the misrepresentation would not be sufficient" always to prevent a finding of procurement by willful misrepresentation. Ibid. Sometimes it might, however, since it is certainly one of the factors that the court can take into account in determining whether the applicant has established that the disqualifying fact relevant to the misrepresentation did not exist. In any case, it will assuredly be rare that a lie which has been shown, clearly, unequivocally, and convincingly, to have a natural tendency to produce the conclusion that the applicant was qualified, will have a "completely innocent explanation."
"At the same time, our cases have also recognized that there must be strict compliance with all the congressionally imposed prerequisites to the acquisition of citizenship. Failure to comply with any of these conditions renders the certificate of citizenship `illegally procured,' and naturalization that is unlawfully procured can be set aside." 449 U. S., at 506 (emphasis added).
It is, moreover, difficult to see how any willful misrepresentation regarding compliance with a naturalization requirement, no matter how technical that requirement, can be considered merely an "insignificant" or "trivial" violation for purposes of determining whether citizenship has been unlawfully procured. Thus, even by amending Fedorenko JUSTICE STEVENS has not succeeded in showing how the willful misrepresentation provision, interpreted as he would prefer, would do anything not already achieved by the "illegally procured" provision.
"There are really three inquiries [under the Chaunt test]: (1) whether a truthful answer would have led to an investigation, (2) whether a disqualifying circumstance actually existed, and (3) whether it would have been discovered by the investigation. Regardless of whether the misstatement was made on an application for a visa or for citizenship, in my opinion the proper analysis should focus on the first and second components and attach little or no weight to the third. Unless the Government can prove the existence of a circumstance that would have disqualified the applicant, I do not believe that citizenship should be revoked on the basis of speculation about what might have been discovered if an investigation had been initiated. But if the Government can establish the existence of a disqualifying fact, I would consider a willful misstatement material if it were more probable than not that a truthful answer would have prompted more inquiry." Id., at 537 (STEVENS, J., dissenting).
"First, this Court's reasoning before Chaunt contains no suggestion that a naturalized citizen would be reduced to alien status merely because a thwarted Government inquiry might have shown him to be unqualified. Instead, the Court has been willing to approve denaturalization only upon a clear and convincing showing that the prescribed statutory conditions of citizenship had never been met. This, it seems to me, is the clear import of the Court's exhaustive reviews in Nowak v. United States, 356 U. S., at 663-668; Knauer v. United States, 328 U. S., at 656-669; Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U. S., at 666-678; and Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U. S., at 131-159. Of course, the Government's ability to investigate with vigor may be affected adversely by its inability to discover that certain facts have been suppressed. That standard announced by the Court of Appeals, however, seems to me to transform this interest in unhampered investigation into an end in itself. Application of that court's standard suggests that a deliberately false answer to any question the Government deems worth asking may be considered material. I do not believe that such a weak standard of proof was ever contemplated by this Court's decisions prior to Chaunt.
"Instead, I conclude that the Court in Chaunt intended to follow its earlier cases, and that its `two tests' are simply two methods by which the existence of ultimate disqualifying facts might be proved. This reading of Chaunt is consistent with the actual language of the so-called second test; it also appears to be the meaning that the dissent in Chaunt believed the Court to have intended.
"Significantly, this view accords with the policy considerations informing the Court's decisions in the area of denaturalization. If naturalization can be revoked years or decades after it is conferred, on the mere suspicion that certain undisclosed facts might have warranted exclusion, I fear that the valued rights of citizenship are in danger of erosion." 449 U. S., at 524-526 (emphasis in original) (footnotes omitted).
"To take away a man's citizenship deprives him of a right no less precious than life or liberty, indeed of one which today comprehends those rights and almost all others. To lay upon the citizen the punishment of exile for committing murder, or even treason, is a penalty thus far unknown to our law and at most but doubtfully within Congress' power. U. S. Const., Amend. VIII. Yet by the device or label or a civil suit, carried forward with none of the safeguards of criminal procedure provided by the Bill of Rights, this most comprehensive and basic right of all, so it has been held, can be taken away and in its wake may follow the most cruel penalty of banishment.
"No such procedures could strip a natural-born citizen of his birthright or lay him open to such a penalty." Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 616-617 (1949).
"In its consequences it is more serious than a taking of one's property, or the imposition of a fine or other penalty. For it is safe to assert that nowhere in the world today is the right of citizenship of greater worth to an individual than it is in this country. It would be difficult to exaggerate its value and importance. By many it is regarded as the highest hope of civilized men. This does not mean that once granted to an alien, citizenship cannot be revoked or cancelled on legal grounds under appropriate proof. But such a right once conferred should not be taken away without the clearest sort of justification and proof. So, . . . in an action instituted . . . for the purpose of depriving one of the precious right of citizenship previously conferred we believe the facts and the law should be construed as far as is reasonably possible in favor of the citizen. Especially is this so when the attack is made long after the time when the certificate of citizenship was granted and the citizen has meanwhile met his obligations and has committed no act of lawlessness. It is not denied that the burden of proof is on the Government in this case.
". . . [A] certificate of citizenship is `an instrument granting political privileges, and open like other public grants to be revoked if and when it shall be found to have been unlawfully or fraudulently procured.' . . . To set aside such a grant the evidence must be `clear, unequivocal, and convincing,' — `it cannot be done upon a bare preponderance of evidence which leaves the issue in doubt.' . . . This is so because rights once conferred should not be lightly revoked. And more especially is this true when the rights are precious and when they are conferred by solemn adjudication, as is the situation when citizenship is granted." Id., at 122-123, 125.
"QUESTION: You know, there are a lot of people that came to this country who were given different names at Ellis Island. The immigration officer couldn't pronounce the name, and they said, well, Sam, is that okay? Yeah, that's my name Sam. Now his name wasn't Sam.
"Did he give that name to procure the visa, or to procure admission to the United States, falsely to procure?
"MR. KLONOFF [Assistant to the Solicitor General]: That's a factual question in each case, we would submit.
"QUESTION: He just wants to facilitate the thing. The guy will never learn how to spell Salvator, or whatever the name is, and the officer — it's happened very often.
"MR. KLONOFF: It has to be a question of fact. If the person had adopted a false I. D. many, many years earlier for a totally different purpose —
"QUESTION: No, no, there is no evil purpose except to facilitate getting in. I don't want to be here, you know, trying to straighten out what the proper spelling of my name is. He says Sam, what do I care; Sam is fine.
"MR. KLONOFF: If he adopted a false identity to facilitate getting in and jumped ahead of the pack —
"QUESTION: Do you consider that facilitating getting in?
"MR. KLONOFF: We would.
"QUESTION: Just to facilitate — to make it quicker so the fellow doesn't have to figure out how to spell Salvator.
"MR. KLONOFF: That would be our position. That's consistent with the statutory —
"QUESTION: Wow, that's a tough position, and I think there are probably a lot of people that are excludable." Tr. of Oral Arg. 39-40.
The observation that a lot of people would be excludable (and a lot of Americans put at risk of losing their citizenship) under the Government's interpretation is, of course, correct. The example instructs that misrepresentations as to matters that are immaterial to the decisions being made by immigration officials simply do not reflect the lack of good moral character § 1101(f)(6) seeks to identify.
"Let me just round the situation out. Let's say that age is fundamentally important to the decision that's being made, but the person doesn't know this. He lies about his age not because he's trying to obtain immigration benefit, but because his wife is sitting there next to him and throughout their marriage he has lied about his age and he doesn't want to tell the truth.
"Now, that type of lie is willful. He clearly was lying deliberately, but he wasn't lying to obtain immigration benefits. . . . He has made a material misrepresentation and it's willful, but he doesn't fit within the good moral character provisions." Tr. of Oral Arg. 29-30.
Illegal procurement was restored as an alternative ground for denaturalization by the Act of September 26, 1961, Pub. L. 87-301, § 18, 75 Stat. 656. It is clear from the legislative history that the purpose of the restoration was to allow denaturalization of persons who did not meet important statutory prerequisites for naturalization but who were not guilty of willful misrepresentation. See H. R. Rep. No. 1086, 87th Cong., 1st Sess., 1, 38-40 (1961). Congress was particularly concerned that criminal conduct such as rape, incest, and fraud could not form the basis for denaturalization without the illegally-procured provision. Although the illegally-procured provision may reach some of the conduct encompassed within the material misrepresentation provision, the illegally-procured provision has an independent and broader reach.
Further, the material misrepresentation provision reaches some conduct not assailable under the illegally-procured provision. The Government contends that construing the material misrepresentation provision to require proof of a disqualifying fact renders that provision meaningless since the Government could always seek denaturalization under the illegally procured provision if it could prove a disqualifying fact. The Government apparently construes our holding on the facts in Fedorenko that citizenship may be considered illegally procured if it is discovered that the applicant failed at the time citizenship was conferred to meet a statutory pre-requisite of citizenship as warranting the conclusion that every newly discovered noncompliance, no matter how insignificant, would warrant a subsequent finding that citizenship had been illegally procured. Thus, for example, an innocent miscalculation of the applicant's period of physical presence within the United States or residence within a particular State, see ante, at 765, n. 2, would place a naturalized citizen's status in permanent jeopardy. I disagree. I do not construe the illegally-procured provision to reach such trivialities despite the reality that an individual who submitted an application for citizenship one day before fulfilling the residency requirements would technically have failed to "satisfy a statutory requirement which Congress has imposed as a prerequisite to the acquisition of citizenship by naturalization." Fedorenko, 449 U. S., at 515. However, if the Government could establish that a naturalized citizen had willfully misrepresented his or her time of residence and that he or she would have been denied citizenship if the true duration of residency had been known, that person would be subject to denaturalization under § 1451(a).