Galvan v. Press

The Case: U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning deportation

Date: Decided on May 24, 1954

Significance: In the context of the Cold War, the Galvan decision upheld the authority of the U.S. government to order the deportation of persons who had been members of the Communist Party, even if there was no good evidence that they had understood the party’s advocacy of violent revolution.

The McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 included a provision for deporting any alien who was a member of the Communist Party at any time after entering the United States. Juan Galvan, an alien born in Mexico, had lived in the United States for more than thirty years. In 1948, he admitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that from 1944 to 1946 he had been a member of the Communist Party, but at a later hearing in 1950, he denied having ever joined the party. After a witness claimed otherwise, the hearing officer concluded that he had been a party member and ordered his deportation for that reason. Galvan’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus was rejected by both the District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

By a 7-2 margin, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld both the statute and the deportation order. Speaking for the majority, Justice Felix Frankfurter discussed three main issues. First, the use of the word “member” in the statute did not just refer to persons who had joined the party fully conscious of its violent goals. Second, the INS had obtained sufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that Galvan had been a member of the party. Finally, based on the “broad power of Congress over the admission and deportation of aliens,” Frankfurter wrote that there was no good reason to conclude that the statute violated constitutional principles of due process. Justice Hugo L. Black and William O. Douglas wrote strong dissenting opinions.

Thomas Tandy Lewis

Further Reading

  • Belknap, Michal. The Supreme Court Under Earl Warren, 1953-1969. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2005. 
  • Stevens, Richard. Reason and History in Judicial Judgment: Felix Frankfurter and Due Process. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 2008. 

See also: Citizenship; Congress, U.S.; Constitution, U.S.; Deportation; Due process protections; Frankfurter, Felix; Immigration law; McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950; Supreme Court, U.S.

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