Ins v. Pangilinan, 486 U.S. 875 (1988)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

Show Summary

Ins v. Pangilinan, 486 U.S. 875 (1988)

Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Pangilinan

No. 86-1992

Argued February 24, 1988
Decided June 17, 1988
486 U.S. 875



Respondents, 16 Filipino nationals who served with the United States Armed Forces during World War II, seek United States citizenship pursuant to §§ 701 through 705 of the Nationality Act of 1940, as amended in 1942. Under § 702 of the Act, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization was authorized to designate representatives to receive petitions, conduct hearings, and grant naturalization outside the United States. In August 1945, the American Vice Consul in Manila was designated pursuant to § 702 to naturalize aliens. The Philippine Government, however, expressed its concern that a mass migration of newly naturalized veterans would drain the soon-to-be independent country’s manpower, and so the naturalization officer’s authority was revoked for a 9-month period between October, 1945, and August, 1946. Respondents would have been eligible for citizenship under the provisions of the 1940 Act if they had filed naturalization applications before the Act expired on December 31, 1946, but did not do so. More than 30 years later, they petitioned for naturalization, claiming that the 9-month absence of a § 702 naturalization officer violated the 1940 Act and deprived them of rights secured by the Fifth Amendment. The naturalization examiner, in all of the cases consolidated here, recommended against naturalization, and the District Courts rejected the naturalization petitions. On respondents’ appeals (some of which were consolidated), heard in two cases by different Ninth Circuit panels, the Court of Appeals ultimately held that the revocation of the Vice Consul’s naturalization authority violated what it characterized as the 1940 Act’s mandatory language, and that the naturalization of respondents was an appropriate equitable remedy.


1. Neither by application of the doctrine of estoppel, nor by invocation of equitable powers, nor by any other means does a court have the power to confer citizenship in violation of the limitations imposed by Congress in the exercise of its exclusive constitutional authority over naturalization. Since respondents have no current statutory right to citizenship under the expired provisions of the 1940 Act, the Ninth Circuit lacked authority to grant the petitions for naturalization. The reasoning of INS v. Hibi, 414 U.S. 5 -- which held that the same official acts as those alleged here did not give rise to an estoppel that prevented the Government from invoking the December 31, 1946, cutoff date in the 1940 Act -- suggests the same result as to the "equitable remedy" theory in this case. Even assuming that, in reviewing naturalization petitions, federal courts sit as courts of equity, such courts can no more disregard statutory provisions than can courts of law. Congress has given the power to the federal courts to make someone a citizen as a specific function to be performed in strict compliance with the terms of 8 U.S.C. § 1421(d), which states that a person may be naturalized "in the manner and under the conditions prescribed in this subchapter, and not otherwise." Pp. 882-885.

2. Assuming that respondents can properly invoke the Constitution’s protections, and granting that they had statutory entitlements to naturalization, there is no merit to their contention that the revocation of the Vice Consul’s naturalization authority deprived them of their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and under its equal protection component. Respondents were not entitled to individualized notice of any statutory rights and to the continuous presence of a naturalization officer in the Philippines from October, 1945, until July, 1946. Moreover, the historical record does not support the contention that the actions at issue here were motivated by any racial animus. Pp. 885-886.

3. There is no merit to the separate arguments of respondents Litonjua and Manzano, including the argument that the Government did not introduce any evidence in their cases concerning the historical events at issue. It is well settled that the burden is on the alien applicant to establish his eligibility for citizenship. Pp. 886-887.

796 F.2d 1091, reversed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, STEVENS, and O’CONNOR, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., concurred in the result. KENNEDY, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Ins v. Pangilinan, 486 U.S. 875 (1988)

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Ins v. Pangilinan, 486 U.S. 875 (1988)

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Ins v. Pangilinan, 486 U.S. 875 (1988) in 486 U.S. 875 486 U.S. 876–486 U.S. 877. Original Sources, accessed February 4, 2023,

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Ins v. Pangilinan, 486 U.S. 875 (1988), in 486 U.S. 875, pp. 486 U.S. 876–486 U.S. 877. Original Sources. 4 Feb. 2023.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Ins v. Pangilinan, 486 U.S. 875 (1988). cited in 1988, 486 U.S. 875, pp.486 U.S. 876–486 U.S. 877. Original Sources, retrieved 4 February 2023, from