LOCATION: Eastern Michigan District Court in Detroit
DOCKET NO.: 86-1992
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
CITATION: 486 US 875 (1988)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1988
Facts of the case
Media for Immigration and Naturalization Service v. PangilinanAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1988 in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Pangilinan
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 1988 in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Pangilinan
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in No. 86-1992, Immigration and Naturalization Service versus Pangilinan and the companion case will be announced by Justice Scalia.
This comes to us on petition for writ of certiorari to the Ninth Circuit.
During World War II in March of 1942, Congress amended the immigration laws to make American citizenship more readily available to aliens who serve honorably in the United States Armed Forces.
In addition to liberalizing the citizenship requirements for such aliens, the Act authorized the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization to receive their naturalization petitions and to naturalize them outside the United States.
Under this provision, in August 1945, the American Vice Consul in Manila was designated to naturalize aliens.
Nobody had been designated for the Philippines before them because they were under Japanese control.
The Philippine Government, however, expressed its concern that a mass migration of newly naturalized veterans would drain the soon-to-be independent country's manpower.
And so that authority was revoked for a nine-month period between October 1945 and August 1946.
The respondents in this case would have been eligible for citizenship under the provisions of the 1942 legislation if they had filed naturalization applications before the Act expired on December 31, 1946, but they did not do so.
More than 30 years later, the respondents initiated this litigation by petitioning for naturalization claiming that the nine-month absence of a naturalization officer violated the legislation and deprived them of rights under the Fifth Amendment.
Their claims were rejected by the naturalization officers and the district courts but were accepted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Since respondents have no current statutory right to citizenship under the expired provisions of the 1942 legislation, the Court's lack authority to grant petitions for naturalization.
That result cannot be achieved on the basis of the Court's powers to grant equitable relief.
Equity courts can no more disregard statutory provisions than can a court of law.
Section 1421(d) of Title VIII of the United States Code provides that a person may be naturalized “in the manner and under the conditions prescribed in this subchapter and not otherwise”.
The subchapter no longer includes the provisions of the 1942 legislation.
We also hold that there is no merit to respondent's contention that the revocation of the Vice Consul's naturalization authority deprived them of due process and equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment.
Assuming that they are entitled to claim, the benefit of those constitutional provisions, they were not entitled to individualize notice of any statutory rights or to the continuous presence of a naturalization officer in the Philippines from October 1945 until July 1946.
The Court's opinion is unanimous except that Justice Blackmun concurs in the result and Justice Kennedy took no part.