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Law School Case Brief

Shaughnessy v. United States ex rel. Mezei - 345 U.S. 206, 73 S. Ct. 625 (1953)


It is true that aliens who have once passed through our gates, even illegally, may be expelled only after proceedings conforming to traditional standards of fairness encompassed in due process of law. But an alien on the threshold of initial entry stands on a different footing: Whatever the procedure authorized by Congress is, it is due process as far as an alien denied entry is concerned. And because the action of the executive officer under such authority is final and conclusive, the Attorney General cannot be compelled to disclose the evidence underlying his determinations in an exclusion case; it is not within the province of any court, unless expressly authorized by law, to review the determination of the political branch of the Government.


Respondent was an alien resident of the United States who traveled abroad and remained in Hungary for 19 months.  On his return, the Attorney General issued an order, which permanently excluded him from entering the country.  The order, issued without any opportunity for a hearing, was based on "information of a confidential nature, the disclosure of which would be prejudicial to the public interest," and on a finding that the alien's entry would be prejudicial to the public interest for security reasons.  In a habeas corpus proceeding, the federal district court authorized the temporary admission of respondent alien to this country on $5,000 bond., which the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, but directed reconsideration of the terms of the parole. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. 


Does the continued exclusion of Respondent for 21 months, without a hearing, constitute denial of his statutory and Constitutional rights?




The Court reversed the judgment that granted Respondent's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court held that Respondent's continued exclusion without a hearing, lasting more than 21 months, did not constitute an unlawful detention and that the lower court erred in granting him temporary entry on bond. The Court distinguished Respondent's situation from other cases that granted hearings to aliens. The Court stated that Respondent was an entrant, under the meaning of the regulation, and he had no rights conferred upon him, and no protections under the Constitution. Neither respondent's harborage on Ellis Island nor his previous residence in the United States changed his status, and he remained excludable.

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