1. Section 19(a) of the Immigration Act of 1917, as amended,
which provides that an alien who is "sentenced more than once" to
imprisonment for a term of one year or more because of conviction
of a crime involving moral turpitude committed after entry shall be
deported, does not apply to an alien who, in a single trial, has
been convicted on two different counts of a single indictment for
murdering two different persons and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Pp. 333 U. S.
2. This provision of the statute authorizes deportation only
where an alien, having committed a crime involving moral turpitude
and having been convicted and sentenced, once again commits a crime
of that nature and is convicted and sentenced for it. P.
333 U. S. 9
3. Because deportation is a drastic penalty equivalent to
banishment or exile, this section should be given the narrowest of
several possible meanings of the words used. P. 333 U. S. 10
162 F.2d 663, reversed.
A District Court denied all alien's petition for a writ of
habeas corpus challenging the legality of his detention
Page 333 U. S. 7
pending deportation. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 162
F.2d 663. This Court granted certiorari. 332 U.S. 814.
p. 333 U. S. 10
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
An alien "who is sentence more than once" to imprisonment for a
term of one year or more because of conviction in this country of a
crime involving moral turpitude committed after his entry shall,
with exceptions not material here, be deported. Section 19(a)
] of the
Page 333 U. S. 8
Act of February 5, 1917, 39 Stat. 889, as amended 54 Stat. 671,
8 U.S.C. § 155(a). It appears that petitioner, a native of China,
was convicted of murder under each of two counts of an indictment,
one count charging the murder of one Lai Quan, the other charging
the murder on or about the same date of one Ong Kim. [Footnote 2
] The jury fixed the punishment for
each murder at life imprisonment. He was thereupon sentenced to
prison for the period of his natural life by one judgment,
construed by the Circuit Court of Appeals to impose that sentence
on him for each of the convictions. Sometime thereafter, a warrant
for his deportation to China issued. Later he was paroled, released
from prison, and taken into the custody of the Immigration Service.
He then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging
the legality of his detention. The District Court denied the
petition on the authority of Nishimoto v. Nagle,
304. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 162 F.2d 663. The case
is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted
because of the contrariety of views among the circuits concerning
the meaning of the statutory words "sentenced more than once."
The Ninth Circuit view is that a conviction and sentence for
more than one offense, whether at the same or different times and
whether carrying concurrent or consecutive sentences, satisfy the
statute. That was the position taken in Nishimoto v. Nagle,
and followed below. The Second Circuit holds that an
alien who is given consecutive sentences is sentenced more than
once, while an alien who is given concurrent sentences is not, even
though the crimes are distinct. Johnson v. United States,
28 F.2d 810; United States ex rel. Mignozzi v. Day,
F.2d 1019. The Fourth Circuit takes the position that the statute
is satisfied whether or not the
Page 333 U. S. 9
sentences imposed run concurrently or consecutively provided
that the two crimes which the committed and for which separate
sentences are imposed arise out of separate transactions.
Tassari v. Schmucker,
53 F.2d 570. The Fifth Circuit takes
the view that an alien is
"sentenced once when, after a conviction or plea of guilty, he
is called before the bar and receives judgment, whether for one or
several crimes, with one or several terms of imprisonment. He is
sentenced more than once when that happens again."
Wallis v. Tecchio,
65 F.2d 250, 252. That view is an
adaptation of the position taken earlier by a District Court in the
same circuit that Congress, by this provision, aimed to deport
"persons who commit a crime and are
sentenced, and then commit another and are sentenced again."
Opolich v. Fluckey,
47 F.2d 950.
The latter is the reading we give the statute. There is a trace
of that purpose found in its legislative history. Congressman
Sabath, who proposed the provision as an amendment, said it was
aimed at the alien "who is a criminal at heart, a man who is guilty
of a second offense involving moral turpitude and for the second
time is convicted." 53 Cong.Rec. 5167. Congressman Burnett, who was
in charge of the bill on the floor of the House, gave the same
emphasis when he said that the amendment proposed
"that those who committed a second crime involving moral
turpitude showed then a criminal heart and a criminal tendency, and
they should then be deported."
p. 5168. The Committee Report in the Senate put
the matter into sharper focus when it stated that the provision was
"intended to reach the alien who, after entry, shows himself to be
a criminal of the confirmed type." S.Rep. No.352, 64th Cong., 1st
Sess., p. 15. Perhaps the plainest "confirmed type" of criminal is
the repeater. We give expression to that view by reading this
provision of the statute to authorize deportation only
Page 333 U. S. 10
where an alien, having committed a crime involving moral
turpitude and having been convicted and sentenced, once again
commits a crime of that nature and is convicted and sentenced for
We resolve the doubts in favor of that construction because
deportation is a drastic measure, and at times the equivalent of
banishment or exile, Delgadillo v. Carmichael,
332 U. S. 388
is the forfeiture for misconduct of a residence in this country.
Such a forfeiture is a penalty. To construe this statutory
provision less generously to the alien might find support in logic.
But, since the stakes are considerable for the individual, we will
not assume that Congress meant to trench on his freedom beyond that
which is required by the narrowest of several possible meanings of
the words used.
Section 19(a), so far as material here, provides:
". . . except as hereinafter provided, any alien who is
hereafter sentenced to imprisonment for a term of one year or more
because of conviction in this country of a crime involving moral
turpitude, committed within five years after the entry of the alien
to the United States, or who is hereafter sentenced more than once
to such a term of imprisonment because of conviction in this
country of any crime involving moral turpitude, committed at any
time after entry . . . shall, upon the warrant of the Attorney
General, be taken into custody and deported. . . . The provision of
this section respecting the deportation of aliens convicted of a
crime involving moral turpitude shall not apply to one who has been
pardoned, nor shall such deportation be made or directed if the
court, or judge thereof, sentencing such alien for such crime shall
at the time of imposing judgment or passing sentence or within
thirty days thereafter, due notice having first been given to
representatives of the State, make a recommendation to the Attorney
General that such alien shall not be deported in pursuance of this
Act; nor shall any alien convicted as aforesaid be deported until
after termination of his imprisonment. . . ."
Whether the two murders resulted from one act or from two does