Agosto v. Immigration and Naturalization Service

RESPONDENT: Immigration and Naturalization Service
LOCATION: Lake East Hospital

DOCKET NO.: 76-1410
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 436 US 748 (1978)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 06, 1978

Marion L. Jetton - for respondent
Robert S. Bixby - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Agosto v. Immigration and Naturalization Service

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 06, 1978 in Agosto v. Immigration and Naturalization Service

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in Agosto against the Immigration and Naturalization Service will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on writ of certiorari of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

After a series of hearing before immigration judge, a petitioner was found to be an alien.

Unlawfully in this country he was already deported.

Petitioner sought review that the decision of the Court of Appeals pursuant to section 106 (A) (5) B of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

That section requires a Court of Appeals to transfer the case to the District Court for a de novo hearing on any non-frivolous claim of American citizenship if "a genuine issue of material fact as to the petitioner's nationality is presented." The Court of Appeals, with judge dissenting, affirmed the deportation order, and refused to transfer the case to the District Court, apparently because petitioner had not presented "substantial evidence" in support of his claim of citizenship.

In the opinion filed today with clerk, we hold that the Court of Appeals erred in finding that a District Court hearing is required only when "substantial evidence" is presented in support of a citizenship claim.

That construction is contrary to the plain language and legislative history of the statute.

Rather than incorporating language requiring "substantial evidence", Congress used the same language that governs for motion for summary judgment under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56.

And applying summary judgment principles in this case that therefore follows that petitioner was entitled to hearing in a District Court.

While the government's evidence would suffice, if uncontradicted, to establish petitioner had been born in Italy that evidence was not uncontradicted.

Petitioner's several witnesses testified that he had been born in this country to an Italian mother and then was sent to Italy as a small child, thus there was a genuine issue of material fact for the District Court to resolve.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

This case involves only one person, a clever and resourceful ex-convict.

It is important because it illustrates and may set a precedent as to how a system can be exploited.

I repeat some of the facts.

For some 11 years the government has been trying to deport petitioner, supported by authenticated documentary evidence as to his birth and marriage, the Immigration Service says that petitioner was born in Italy and entered the United States in 1966 by fraud and deception.

He has criminal records both in Italy and in this country.

Petitioner claims without documentary evidence of any kind that he was born in Cleveland.

Since this proceeding was instituted in 1967, there have been three separate evidentiary hearings before immigration judges, three appeals to the Board of Immigrations Appeal, one appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and this review by the Supreme Court of the United States.

During this total of eight administrative and judicial proceedings, and in certain other proceedings, petitioner has told five different stories with respect to his nationality.

He has invented new fabrications whenever they served his purposes.

Not until the third hearing, some four years after the first hearing, the petitioner present any, corroborating evidence of his claim to citizenship except the birth certificate.

He later admitted that, that birth certificate belonged to someone else.

At the third hearing, he produced three witnesses, all relatives who supported to some extent, his latest accounts of his birth.

The account they supported was quite different from the two previous accounts petitioner himself had sworn to.

Again no documents of any kind were presented.

The case is here because a Federal Statute provides that in a case involving a claim for citizenship and after exhausting administrative proceedings.

A claimer may start over again with a de novo trial in a Federal District Court.

Provided two conditions on that.

One, that the claim is not frivolous and two, that the genuine issue of material fact has been presented by claimants evidence.