RESPONDENT: H.R. Landon, District Director of Immigration and Naturalization
LOCATION: Pittsburgh Party Headquarters
DOCKET NO.: 111
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 350 US 920 (1955)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1955 / Dec 08, 1955
DECIDED: Dec 12, 1955
Facts of the case
Media for Gonzales v. LandonAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1955 in Gonzales v. Landon
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1955 in Gonzales v. Landon
Number 111, Gonzales versus H.R. Landon, District Director of Immigration and Naturalization.
May it pleased the Court.
This case, involves the laws of United States citizenship by a petitioner.
He's of Mexican descent but he was born in the State of New Mexico when he was some two years of age, he was taken by his parent's to Mexico.
And he remained in Mexico until he was 22 years of age.
By that time it was 1946.
He attempted to return and did return at that time.
District Court ruled that the petitioner had lost his United States citizenship on the ground that he remained outside of the jurisdiction of United States for the purpose of avoiding service under a statute which provide substantially that.
The statute is Section 401 (j) if you -- Your Honors will find it at page 2 of our opening brief, our reply brief.
It is quite short.
It is -- it was adopted by the Congress in 1944 during the war.
It appears towards the later part -- portion of page 2 of our opening brief and it provides that any citizen of the United States who remains outside of the jurisdiction of United States or leaves the jurisdiction of United States to avoid military service and may or shall loose his United States citizenship.
The issues which are before Your Honors as the petition have used it are three.
There is the question as to whether, in adopting Section 401 (j), Congress exceeded its constitutional power.
This petitioner, this boy was a citizen of the United States and not by naturalization, not -- not by grace of Congress but by virtue of the mandate of a Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
And so, there is posed in this case, the question as to whether Congress had the power to do it but knowing somewhat the course of decision by -- of decisions by this Court on constitutional questions, namely, as to whether Congress was within or beyond its power in enacting the statute.
I shall defer that issue for the last portion of my argument, for Mr. Justice Frankfurter and other justices of this Court, would remind me if I didn't, that this Court will reach that question last.
We'll reach the question of the constitutionality only in the event all other issues have to be disposed of adversely to the petitioner.
So, I shall travel that road to press for the issue of constitutionality, and what I like to call the highroad of my argument is last and turn to two other issues first.
Another issue is, and not an easy one or could the Congress mean by this statute.
What is its legislative history and more particularly, what did Congress mean by this statute?
In the light of an agreement between the United States and the Mexican Government entered into 1943, which agreement, Your Honors will find set forth quite fully in the Government's brief at page 29 and which as I say was entered into in1943, was acknowledged by Congress in 1943 and it appears in the 57 statutes.
One of the question will be, whether or not this petitioner who did not leave the United States while we're at war, but who on the contrary was a resident of Mexico while we were at war, having begun his residence during his infancy.
One of the questions Your Honors will have to decide is whether or not he is covered by or is it well protected by the provisions of this agreement between our Government and that of Mexico?
And therefore, his conduct does not -- is not covered by and is not subject to the provisions of Section 401 (j).
And finally, there is the question, as to whether or not in this case, the evidence is so clear and unequivocal and convincing I use a trio of words that this Court has used in the naturalization cases, in cases involving citizenship whether or not the evidence has a -- the sufficient clarity or is so clear from -- from doubt as to have warranted the trial court and the Court of Appeals which agree with the trial court, directing a forfeiture of -- of this boy's right to citizenship directing a forfeiture of the most precious right that any human being can now have on the face of the earth, the right to American citizenship.
Let me take as I have listed the issues, the middle road first.
Namely, what did Congress mean by the adoption of Section 401 (j)?
And what is the significance of and the applicability to this case of the provisions of the agreement between this Government and that of Mexico, the terms of which you will find in the Government's brief in an extended footnote, not too extended really, on page 29 of the Government's brief.