AILA’s 75th Anniversary
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.
In seemingly contradictory rulings, the Supreme Court decided two consequential immigration cases. In Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding, the Court ruled that immigration regulations did not permit the attorney general to deny to a foreign national, who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States and who is continuously residing and physically present therein, an opportunity to be heard in opposition to an order for their “permanent exclusion” and consequent deportation, even when the attorney general determines that the order is based on information of a confidential nature, the disclosure of which would be prejudicial to the public interest. In Shaughnessy v. Mezei, a U.S. permanent resident traveled abroad and remained in Hungary for 19 months. On his return to this country, the attorney general ordered him permanently excluded without a hearing. The order 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 foreign national’s entry would be prejudicial to the public interest for security reasons. Because other nations refused to accept him, his exclusion at Ellis Island continued for 21 months. A federal district court in habeas corpus proceedings then directed his conditional parole into the United States on bond. Distinguishing Kwong Hai Chew, the Court ruled that the attorney general’s continued exclusion of the foreign national without a hearing did not amount to an unlawful detention, and that courts could not retry the attorney general’s statutory determination that a foreign national’s entry would be prejudicial to the public interest.
Taken together, the Knauff, Kwong Hai Chew and Mezei cases are emblematic of immigration cases of the 1950s, when the plenary power of the executive branch over immigration was used to exclude, without due process, those considered politically undesirable, often based on secret information.