Knauer v. United States/Dissent Rutledge

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

328 U.S. 654


 Argued: March 28, 29, 1946. --- Decided: June 10, 1946

Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE dissenting.

For reasons I have suggested elsewhere, [1] but which now are squarely involved, I cannot bring myself to concur in this judgment.

My concern is not for Paul Knauer. The record discloses that he has no conception of, much less attachment to, basic American principles or institutions. He was a thorough-going Nazi, addicted to philosophies altogether hostile to the democratic framework in which we believe and live. Further, he was an active promoter of movements directed to securing acceptance of those ideas here and incorporating them in our institutions. And in this case, by contrast with those of Schneiderman and Baumgartner, [2] it would be hard to say that the evidence would not sustain a finding that he falsely took the oath of allegiance or that he never in his heart renounced his prime fealty to Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany. Nor, in my opinion, can it be thought unequal to supporting a conclusion that, from a time prior to his admission to citizenship in 1935 until at any rate the assault on Pearl Harbor, Knauer was in active service of the Nazi regime, promoting its cause here, and also for a short time in Germany, as the object of his first loyalty.

If therefore in any case a naturalized citizen's right and status can be revoked, by the procedure followed here or perhaps at all, it would be in such a case as this. But if one man's citizenship can thus be taken away, so can that of any other. And even in this case it would be in a large part for his political convictions and acts done openly in espousal of them. Not merely Knauer's rights, but those of millions of naturalized citizens in their status and all that it implies of security and freedom, are affected by what is done in this case. By the outcome they are made either second-class citizens or citizens having equal rights and equal security with others.

No native-born American's birthright col d be stripped from him for such a cause or by such a procedure as has been followed here. Nor could he be punished with banishment. To suffer that great loss he must forfeit citizenship by some act of treason or felony and be adjudged guilty by processes of law consistent with all the great protections thrown around such trials. Not yet has attempt been made to do this otherwise. Nor in my opinion could it be done, except for some such cause or by any less carefully safeguarded procedure.

In no instance thus far has our system tolerated destruction of that right of the native-born, except by voluntary surrender, on account of convictions held, views expressed, or acts done in promoting their acceptance falling short of treason as defined in the Constitution [3] or conviction for felony. Nor has it thus far brought about that extinction by forms of trial other than those provided for such offenses. Moreover, even in such cases, although the penalty may be death or loss of the rights of citizenship, we have not yet imposed those penalties altogether foreign to our institutions, namely, deportation or exile. For one cause and one only have they been provided, namely, the loss of the naturalized citizen's status.

I do not find warrant in the Constitution for believing that it contemplates two classes of citizens, excepting only for two purposes. One is to provide how citizenship shall be acquired, Const., Art. I, § 8; Amend. XIV, § 1, the other to determine eligibility for the presidency. Const., Art. II, § 1. The latter is the only instance in which the charter expressly excludes the naturalized citizen from any right or privilege the native-born possesses. [4] Luria v. United States, 231 U.S. 9, 22, 34 S.Ct. 10, 13, 58 L.Ed. 101. I do not think there is any other in which his status is, or can be made, inferior.

Congress, it is true, is empowered to lay down the conditions for admission of foreign-born persons to citizenship. In this respect it has wide authority. But it is not unlimited. Nor is Congress given power to take away citizenship once it is conferred, other than for some sufficient act of forfeiture taking place afterward. Naturalized citizens are no more free to become traitors or criminals than others and may be punished as they are when they commit the same offense. But any process which takes away their citizenship for causes or by procedures not applicable to native-born citizens places them in a separate and an inferior class. That dilemma is inescapable, though it is one not heretofore faced squarely. Unless it is the law that there are two classes of citizens, one superior, the other inferior, the status of no citizen can be annulled for causes or by procedures not applicable to all others,

To say that Congress can disregard this fact and create inequalities of status as between native and foreign-born citizens by attaching conditions to their admission, to be applied retroactively after that event, is only to say in other words that Congress by using that method can create different, and inferior, classes of citizens. I have heretofore pointed out why citizens with strings attached to their citizenship, for its revocation, can be neither free nor secure in their status. Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, concurring opinion at page 165, 63 S.Ct. 1333, concurring opinion at page 1356, 87 L.Ed. 1796. All that is said there, in that respect, applies here or to any procedure by which citizenship may be annulled. In my opinion the power to naturalize is not the power to denaturalize. The act of admission must be taken as final, for any cause which may have existed at that time. Otherwise there cannot but be two clase § of citizens, one free and secure except for acts amounting to forfeiture within our tradition; the other conditional, timorous and insecure because blanketed with the threat that some act or conduct, not amounting to forfeiture for others, will be taken retroactively to show that some prescribed condition had not been fulfilled and be so adjudged. I do not think such a difference was contemplated when Congress was authorized to provide for naturalization and the terms on which it should be granted.

But if I may be wrong in this, certainly so drastic a penalty as denaturalization, with resulting deportation and exile and all the attendant consequences, should not be imposed by any procedure less protective of the citizen's most fundamental right, comprehending all others, than must be employed to take away the native-born citizen's status or the lesser rights of the foreign-born citizen. If strings may be attached to citizenship and pulled retroactively to annul it, at the least this should be done only by those forms of proceeding most fully surrounded with the constitutional securities for trial which are among the prized incidents of citizenship. It is altogether anomalous that those safeguards are thrown about the foreign-born citizen when, for some offense, his liberty even for brief periods is at stake, but are withdrawn from him when all that gives substance to that freedom is put in jeopardy.

The right of citizenship is the most precious of all The penalty for denaturalization is always harsh. Often it is more drastic than any other. It is also unique for this situation. For the required measure of security, the native-born citizen can be deprived of his status only by the rigidly safeguarded trial for treason or for conviction of a criminal offense which brings loss of rights as a citizen. To those procedures, with the same penalties and for the same causes, the foreign-born citizen is subject; but also by them he is protected. He should not be less secure when it is sought to annul his citizenship than when the effort is to bring about its forfeiture. Nor, in either event, should his procedural safeguards be less than when the same consequence, in substance, is inflicted upon the citizen native born.

The procedure prescribed for and followed in this case was not in accord with those standards. I think nothing less is adequate, or consistent with the constitutional status of citizenship, for the purpose of taking it away.

If this means that some or even many disloyal foreign-born citizens cannot be deported, it is better so than to place so many loyal ones in inferior status. And there are other effective methods for dealing with those who are disloyal, just as there are for such citizens by birth.

Accordingly, I would reverse the judgment.

Mr. Justice MURPHY joins in this dissent.


^1  Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, concurring opinion at page 165, 63 S.Ct. 1333, concurring opinion at page 1356, 87 L.Ed. 1796.

^2  See note 1; Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 64 S.Ct. 1240, 88 L.Ed. 1525.

^3  Constitution, Art, III, § 3. See Cramer v. United States, 325 U.S. 1, 65 S.Ct. 918, 89 L.Ed. 1441.

^4  Cf. Constitution, Art, I § 2; Art. I, § 3, providing respectively that no person shall be a Senator who shall not have been nine years a citizen and, in the case of Representatives, seven years.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).