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decided: April 5, 1971.



Blackmun, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Harlan, Stewart, and White, JJ., joined. Black, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Douglas and Marshall, JJ., joined, post, p. 836. Brennan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Douglas, J., joined, post, p. 845.

Author: Blackmun

[ 401 U.S. Page 816]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under constitutional challenge here, primarily on Fifth Amendment due process grounds, but also on Fourteenth Amendment grounds, is § 301 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of June 27, 1952, 66 Stat. 236, 8 U. S. C. § 1401 (b).

Section 301 (a) of the Act, 8 U. S. C. § 1401 (a), defines those persons who "shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth." Paragraph (7) of § 301 (a) includes in that definition a person born abroad "of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States" who has met specified conditions of residence in this country. Section 301 (b), however, provides that one who is a citizen at birth under § 301 (a)(7) shall lose his citizenship unless, after age 14 and before age 28, he shall come to the United States and be physically present here continuously for at least five years. We quote the statute in the margin.*fn1

[ 401 U.S. Page 817]

     The plan thus adopted by Congress with respect to a person of this classification was to bestow citizenship at birth but to take it away upon the person's failure to comply with a post-age-14 and pre-age-28 residential requirement. It is this deprival of citizenship, once bestowed, that is under attack here.


The facts are stipulated:

1. The appellee, Aldo Mario Bellei (hereinafter the plaintiff), was born in Italy on December 22, 1939. He is now 31 years of age.

2. The plaintiff's father has always been a citizen of Italy and never has acquired United States citizenship. The plaintiff's mother, however, was born in Philadelphia in 1915 and thus was a native-born United States citizen. She has retained that citizenship. Moreover, she has fulfilled the requirement of § 301 (a)(7) for physical presence

[ 401 U.S. Page 818]

     in the United States for 10 years, more than five of which were after she attained the age of 14 years. The mother and father were married in Philadelphia on the mother's 24th birthday, March 14, 1939. Nine days later, on March 23, the newlyweds departed for Italy. They have resided there ever since.

3. By Italian law the plaintiff acquired Italian citizenship upon his birth in Italy. He retains that citizenship. He also acquired United States citizenship at his birth under Rev. Stat. § 1993, as amended by the Act of May 24, 1934, § 1, 48 Stat. 797, then in effect.*fn2 That version of the statute, as does the present one, contained a residence condition applicable to a child born abroad with one alien parent.

4. The plaintiff resided in Italy from the time of his birth until recently. He currently resides in England, where he has employment as an electronics engineer with an organization engaged in the NATO defense program.

5. The plaintiff has come to the United States five different times. He was physically present here during the following periods:

April 27 to July 31, 1948

July 10 to October 5, 1951

June to October 1955

[ 401 U.S. Page 819]

     December 18, 1962 to February 13, 1963

May 26 to June 13, 1965.

On the first two occasions, when the plaintiff was a boy of eight and 11, he entered the country with his mother on her United States passport. On the next two occasions, when he was 15 and just under 23, he entered on his own United States passport and was admitted as a citizen of this country. His passport was first issued on June 27, 1952. His last application approval, in August 1961, contains the notation "Warned abt. 301 (b)." The plaintiff's United States passport was periodically approved to and including December 22, 1962, his 23d birthday.

6. On his fifth visit to the United States, in 1965, the plaintiff entered with an Italian passport and as an alien visitor. He had just been married and he came with his bride to visit his maternal grandparents.

7. The plaintiff was warned in writing by United States authorities of the impact of § 301 (b) when he was in this country in January 1963 and again in November of that year when he was in Italy. Sometime after February 11, 1964, he was orally advised by the American Embassy at Rome that he had lost his United States citizenship pursuant to § 301 (b). In November 1966 he was so notified in writing by the American Consul in Rome when the plaintiff requested another American passport.

8. On March 28, 1960, plaintiff registered under the United States Selective Service laws with the American Consul in Rome. At that time he already was 20 years of age. He took in Italy, and passed, a United States Army physical examination. On December 11, 1963, he was asked to report for induction in the District of Columbia. This induction, however, was then deferred because of his NATO defense program employment. At the time of deferment he was warned of the danger of losing his United States citizenship if he did not comply

[ 401 U.S. Page 820]

     with the residence requirement. After February 14, 1964, Selective Service advised him by letter that, due to the loss of his citizenship, he had no further obligation for United States military service.

Plaintiff thus concededly failed to comply with the conditions imposed by § 301 (b) of the Act.


The plaintiff instituted the present action against the Secretary of State in the Southern District of New York. He asked that the Secretary be enjoined from carrying out and enforcing § 301 (b), and also requested a declaratory judgment that § 301 (b) is unconstitutional as violative of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, the Eighth Amendment's Punishment Clause, and the Ninth Amendment, and that he is and always has been a native-born United States citizen. Because, under 28 U. S. C. § 1391 (e), the New York venue was improper, the case was transferred to the District of Columbia. 28 U. S. C. § 1406 (a).

A three-judge District Court was convened. With the facts stipulated, cross motions for summary judgment were filed. The District Court ruled that § 301 (b) was unconstitutional, citing Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), and Schneider v. Rusk, 377 U.S. 163 (1964), and sustained the plaintiff's summary judgment motion. Bellei v. Rusk, 296 F.Supp. 1247 (DC 1969). This Court noted probable jurisdiction, 396 U.S. 811 (1969), and, after argument at the 1969 Term, restored the case to the calendar for reargument. 397 U.S. 1060 (1970).


The two cases primarily relied upon by the three-judge District Court are, of course, of particular significance here.

[ 401 U.S. Page 821]

     his foreign voting. The Court, by a five-to-four vote, held that the Fourteenth Amendment's definition of citizenship was significant; that Congress has no "general power, express or implied, to take away an American citizen's citizenship without his assent," 387 U.S., at 257; that Congress' power is to provide a uniform rule of naturalization and, when once exercised with respect to the individual, is exhausted, citing Mr. Chief Justice Marshall's well-known but not uncontroversial dictum in Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 9 Wheat. 738, 827 (1824); and that the "undeniable purpose" of the Fourteenth Amendment was to make the recently conferred "citizenship of Negroes permanent and secure" and "to put citizenship beyond the power of any governmental unit to destroy," 387 U.S., at 263. Perez v. Brownell, 356 U.S. 44 (1958), a five-to-four holding within the decade and precisely to the opposite effect, was overruled.

The dissent (MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, joined by JUSTICES Clark, STEWART, and WHITE) took issue with the Court's claim of support in the legislative history, would elucidate the Marshall dictum, and observed that the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment did not deprive Congress of the power to expatriate on permissible grounds consistent with "other relevant commands" of the Constitution. 387 U.S., at 292.

It is to be observed that both Mrs. Schneider and Mr. Afroyim had resided in this country for years. Each had acquired United States citizenship here by the naturalization process (in one case derivative and in the other direct) prescribed by the National Legislature. Each, in short, was covered explicitly by the Fourteenth Amendment's very first sentence: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." This, of course, accounts

[ 401 U.S. Page 823]

     for the Court's emphasis in Afroyim upon "Fourteenth Amendment citizenship." 387 U.S., at 262.


The statutes culminating in § 301 merit review:

1. The very first Congress, at its Second Session, proceeded to implement its power, under the Constitution's Art. I, § 8, cl. 4, to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization" by producing the Act of March 26, 1790, 1 Stat. 103. That statute, among other things, stated, "And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States . . . ."

2. A like provision, with only minor changes in phrasing and with the same emphasis on paternal residence, was continuously in effect through three succeeding naturalization Acts. Act of January 29, 1795, § 3, 1 Stat. 415; Act of April 14, 1802, § 4, 2 Stat. 155; Act of February 10, 1855, c. 71, § 1, 10 Stat. 604. The only significant difference is that the 1790, 1795, and 1802 Acts read retrospectively, while the 1855 Act reads prospectively as well. See Weedin v. Chin Bow, 274 U.S. 657, 664 (1927), and Montana v. Kennedy, 366 U.S. 308, 311 (1961).

3. Section 1 of the 1855 Act, with changes unimportant here, was embodied as § 1993 of the ...

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