Berenyi v. Immigration Director
385 U.S. 630 (1967)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Berenyi v. Immigration Director, 385 U.S. 630 (1967)

Berenyi v. Director, Immigration and Naturalization Service

No. 66

Argued December 5-6, 1966

Decided January 23, 1967

385 U.S. 630

Syllabus

Petitioner, an alien who entered this country from Hungary in 1956, filed a petition for naturalization in 1962. In connection therewith, he denied under oath that he had been a member of the Communist Party, or that he had been connected or associated with the Party, either directly or indirectly. The Attorney General opposed the petition, and at the District Court hearing, produced two witnesses whose testimony indicated that petitioner had been a Party member in Hungary. Petitioner denied Party membership, and presented witnesses who testified to his opposition to Communism. The District Judge found that petitioner became a Party member in 1945, remained so for a number of years, attended Party meetings, and that petitioner had thus testified falsely in connection with his citizenship application. Since §§ 101(f) and 316(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provide that an applicant who gives such false testimony is not "a person of good moral character" within the meaning of the Act, and is therefore ineligible for naturalization, the court denied petitioner's citizenship application. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Petitioner seeks reversal of the judgment on the grounds that the factual conclusion of his Party membership was "clearly erroneous," and that the Government failed to establish that his participation in the Party amounted to "meaningful association."

Held:

1. There is no basis here for disregarding this Court's policy that it

"cannot undertake to review concurrent findings of fact by two courts below in the absence of a very obvious and exceptional showing of error."

Graver Mfg. Co. v. Linde Co.,336 U. S. 271, 336 U. S. 275. Pp. 385 U. S. 635-636.

(a) There was no "very obvious and exceptional" error in the conclusion that petitioner had been a Party member. P. 385 U. S. 635.

(b) The policy has particular force when, as here, the resolution of disputed factual issues turns largely on an assessment of the credibility of witnesses who were observed only by the trial court. P. 385 U. S. 636.

Page 385 U. S. 631

(c) This Court will not hesitate to undertake independent examination of factual issues when constitutional claims may depend on their resolution, but no constitutional issues are involved here. P. 385 U. S. 636.

2. In naturalization proceedings, as distinguished from deportation or denaturalization cases where the Government must prove its case by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence, the burden is on the alien to show his eligibility in every respect. Pp. 385 U. S. 636-638.

3. The "meaningful association" test for Party members used in deportation cases is not apposite here, since petitioner's application was not denied for Party membership, but for falsely answering the question whether he had ever been "in any way connected with or associated with the Communist Party either directly or indirectly," a material and relevant question. Pp. 385 U. S. 637-638.

352 F.2d 71 affirmed.

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