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UNITED STATES v. MANZI, 276 U.S. 463 (1928)

U.S. Supreme Court

UNITED STATES v. MANZI, 276 U.S. 463 (1928)

276 U.S. 463

No. 204.

Argued Feb. 23, 1928.
Decided April 9, 1928.

The Attorney General and Mr. W. D. Mitchell, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D. C., for the United States. [276 U.S. 463, 464]  

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Aniello Manzi filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States October 15, 1913. He did December 19, 1914. On October 4, 1924, his widow Amalia, respondent herein, relying upon her husband's declaration, asked for citizenship. This was granted February 3, 1925, and certificate issued over the objection that her request came too late, more than seven years having passed since the husband made his declaration.

January 9, 1926, the United States began this proceeding by a petition in the District Court for Rhode Island to cancel her certificate upon the ground that it had been illegally procured. That court dismissed the petition and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decree. (16 F.( 2d) 884.) The single question for our consideration is one of law: Whether it was unnecessary for respondent to declare her intention because her husband had declared his in 1913

The Solicitor General maintains, and we think rightly, that while a widow may have the benefit of her husband's declaration, she must perfect her citizenship under the restrictions specified for him, including the requirement that request for naturalization must come not more than seven years after such declaration. The intention of Congress was to treat the action of the husband as though taken by the widow herself.

The Act of June 29, 1906, 'to establish a Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, and to provide for a uniform rule for the naturalization of aliens throughout the United States' (34 Stat. 596), definitely prescribes the circumstances under which aliens may be naturalized. Its requirements are much more stringent than those found in former acts. [276 U.S. 463, 465]   Section 4, par. 1 (8 USCA 373), directs that 2 years, at least, prior to his admission, and after he has reached the age of 18 years, the alien shall declare on oath that it is his bona fide intention to become a citizen, and then directs-

The formula to be observed by a declarant is then set forth.

Pertinent sections of the Revised Statutes, in effect prior to 1906, provided-

Manifestly, the act of 1906, demands much more of the widow of a deceased alien who had declared his intention before she can become a citizen than was necessary under section 2168, Revised Statutes. Although in certain circumstances she may obtain naturalization without her personal declaration of intention, she must comply with all other prerequisites.

[276 U.S. 463, 467]   Citizenship is a high privilege, and when doubts exist concerning a grant of it, generally at least, they should be resolved in favor of the United States and against the claimant. Swan & Finch Co. v. United States, 190 U.S. 143, 146 , 23 S. Ct. 702. If Aniello had lived, his declaration of intention would have been valueless to him after seven years. The construction now suggested by respondent would prolong the efficacy of this application for her benefit during an indefinite period.

The act of 1906 definitely directs that the petition for citizenship shall be filed within seven years after the declaration, and we find nothing in the words used or the legislative purpose which permits an extension of such time for the benefit of widows. United States v. Poslusny (C. C. A.) 179 F. 836, In re Schmidt (D. C.) 161 F. 231, and In re Shearer (D. C.) 158 F. 839, we think, give no substantial support to the contrary view.

The decree of the court below is reversed.

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND and Mr. Justice SANFORD dissent.

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