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U.S. Supreme Court

Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Stranahan, 214 U.S. 320 (1909)

Oceanic Steam Navigation Company v. Stranahan

No. 509

Argued January 11, 12, 1909

Decided June 1, 1909

214 U.S. 320


Money paid to the collector of a port under protest, and on the certainty that, if not paid, clearance to vessels necessarily sailing on definite schedule would be refused, to the great damage of the owner, is paid involuntarily, and can, if unlawfully exacted, be recovered.

Congress has power to deal with the admission of aliens and to confide the enforcement of laws in regard thereto to administrative officers. United States v. Ju Toy, 198 U. S. 253.

In construing a congressional statute, this Court may consider the report chanrobles.com-red

Page 214 U. S. 321

of the committee as a guide to its true interpretation in order to dispel ambiguity, if any exists. The Delaware, 161 U. S. 459; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U. S. 470.

It is within the competency of Congress, when legislating as to matters exclusively within its control, to impose appropriate obligations and sanction their enforcement by reasonable money penalties, giving to executive officers the power to enforce such penalties without the necessity of invoking the judicial power.

The authority, given by Congress in the Alien Immigration Act to the Secretary of Commerce and Labor to impose an exaction on a transportation company bringing to the United States an alien immigrant afflicted with a loathsome contagious disease when the medical examination establishes that the disease existed, and could have been detected by medical examination at the time of embarkation, does not purport to define and punish any criminal offense, but merely entails the infliction of a penalty enforceable by civil suit, and it is within the power of Congress to provide for such imposition by an executive officer, and the enforcement is not necessarily governed by the rules controlling the prosecution of criminal offenses. Wong Wing v. United States, 163 U. S. 228, distinguished; Hepner v. United States, 213 U. S. 103, followed.

The constitutional right of Congress to enact legislation in regard to a matter wholly within its jurisdiction is the sole measure by which the validity of such legislation is to be determined by the courts, and the courts cannot proceed on the supposition that harm will follow if the legislature be permitted full sway and, in order to correct the legislature, exceed their own authority, and assume that wrong may be done in order to prevent wrong being accomplished. McCray v. United States, 195 U. S. 27.

The imposition of a penalty by an executive officer when authorized by Congress in a matter wholly within its competency, such as alien immigration, is not unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment as taking property without due process of law.

The courts cannot make mere form, and not substance, the test of the constitutional power of Congress to enact a statute in regard to a matter over which Congress has absolute control.

The prohibition of § 9 of the Alien Immigration Act of March 3, 1903, c. 1012, 32 Stat. 1213, against bringing into the United States alien immigrants afflicted with loathsome and contagious diseases is within the absolute power of Congress, and that provision of the act is not unconstitutional because it provides that the Secretary of Commerce and Labor may, without judicial trial, impose upon, and exact chanrobles.com-red

Page 214 U. S. 322

penalties from, the transportation company for violation of the provisions.

The greater includes the less, and where Congress has power to sanction a prohibition by penalties enforceable by executive officers without judicial trial on the ascertainment in a prescribed manner of certain facts, the person upon whom the penalty is imposed is not entitled to any hearing in the sense of raising an issue and tendering evidence as to the facts so ascertained, and is not therefore denied due process because the time which the executive officer allows him after notice of the ascertainment and imposition to produce evidence as to certain facts on which the fine might be remitted is too short.

155 F.4d 8 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of § 9 of the Alien Immigration Act of March 3, 1903, are stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 214 U. S. 329


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