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United States v. Shaughnessy

decided: May 9, 1956.


Before Frank, Hincks and Waterman, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hincks

HINCKS, Circuit Judge.

This appeal from an order dismissing a writ of habeas corpus turns upon the validity of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals denying the appellants' request for suspension of deportation.

The facts are substantially as follows. The appellants are husband and wife, both Greek citizens. Both were admitted to the United States as seamen, the wife at Newport News, Virginia, on July 4, 1951 and the husband at Baltimore, Maryland, on August 15, 1951. At the time the female entered the United States she was six months pregnant and journeyed to New York to seek medical advice where her husband joined her at the later date when his ship next arrived in the United States. Their child was born in the United States on November 11, 1951 and thus by reason of his nativity is an American citizen. On January 4, 1952, the appellants voluntarily disclosed their illegal presence and made application to the Immigration Service for suspension of deportation. On April 9, 1952, warrants issued for their arrest in deportation proceedings, and on May 29, 1952 they were accorded a hearing thereunder at Ellis Island. The Hearing Officer found them deportable for entry into the United States with intent to remain indefinitely without possession of immigration visas, and denied their application for suspension of deportation. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision of the Hearing Officer in an opinion dated March 18, 1954. On May 5, 1954, the Board reiterated its conclusion in denying a motion to reopen the proceedings. Thereafter, the appellants were taken into custody for deportation and a writ of habeas corpus was issued on July 14, 1955. On August 1, 1955, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, per Dawson, J., 133 F.Supp. 433, dismissed the writ and upheld the decision of the Board as a proper exercise of the Attorney General's discretionary power to grant or deny the relief requested. The present appeal is prosecuted from the dismissal of the writ below.

On this appeal, as below, the appellants do not question their deportability. Their attack on the administrative order is confined to so much thereof as denied their request for suspension of deportation.As to this the applicable statute is the Immigration and Nationality Act of June 28, 1940, c. 439, ยง 20(c),*fn1 which amended 39 Stat. 889, which, so far as here pertinent, provides:

"In the case of any alien * * * who is deportable under any law of the United States and who has proved good moral character for the preceding five years, the Attorney General may * * * suspend deportation of such alien * * * if he finds that such deportation would result in serious economic detriment to a citizen or legally resident alien who is the * * * minor child of such deportable alien."

It is clear that under this statute the "good moral character" of the appellants for five years and resultant "serious economic detriment to * * * [their] minor child" were essential qualifications for the eligibility of these appellants for suspension of their deportation. In the administrative proceedings it was found that both these qualifications existed and that the appellants were indeed eligible.Notwithstanding, the Attorney General, through the Board of Immigration Appeals as his administrative delegate, in the exercise of the discretion vested in him by the Act, refused to grant a suspension.

To determine the validity of that action we look first to the opinion of the Board of Immigration Appeals of March 18, 1954. In that opinion, its Board took note of the financial condition of the appellants and went on to say:

"* * * It is obvious that the American citizen infant child is dependent upon the alien parents for economic support, care and maintenance. Documentary and other evidence established good moral character for the requisite period. The aliens have no connection with subversive groups."

It concluded its opinion with these two paragraphs:

"As stated above, we have, in the instant case, a family consisting of two alien parents illegally residing in the United States and one American citizen child, age about two and one-half years. These respondents have been in the United States for a period of less than three years. Both arrived in this country as seamen. They have no other dependents or close family ties here. The record indicates that the male respondent may be able to obtain work as a Greek seaman and earn about $85 monthly.

"Notwithstanding the fact that the family situation in the case before us is similar to the situation in the case last referred to by counsel, in which a decision was made in 1951; and notwithstanding the fact that the deportation of these respondents would result in a serious economic detriments to an American citizen infant child, the granting or withholding of maximum discretionary relief depends on the factors and merits in each individual case, and is a matter of administrative discretion.*fn1a We have carefully examined the facts and circumstances in the instant case and we find that the granting of the maximum relief is not warranted by the record in the case. The appeals will be dismissed. * * *"

The emphasis which we have added to the second paragraph just quoted shows unmistakably that the Board recognized that the applicable hardship test of eligibility was "a serious economic detriment to an American citizen," which was the precise test of eligibility for suspension provided in the applicable statute from which we quote above. On that basis, it found that the appellants were in all respects eligible for suspension. But in the belief that the exercise of its discretion under the statute "depends on the factors and events in each individual case" the Board denied suspension as "not warranted by the record in this case."

We see nothing in the opinion, or indeed in the underlying record, to suggest that the determination was arbitrary or based on irrelevant or improper considerations. We cannot say as a matter of law that if, as a result of the parents' deportation, the minor child shall be reared, say, in Athens instead of in Brooklyn, that the resulting economic detriment to the child - which was recognized - is a factor of sufficient gravity to withhold the deportation of aliens who had entered this country with intent to remain indefinitely, in violation of the immigration laws, less than a year before the decision of the Hearing Officer which first ordered their deportation. We conclude that under our former decisions which the Board cited in its March 18th opinion - Weddeke and Kaloudis - the Board's action would have been unassailable if the administrative proceedings had stopped ...

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