ZEMEL V. RUSK, 381 U. S. 1 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1 (1965)

Zemel v. Rusk

No. 86

Argued March 1, 1965

Decided May 3, 1965

381 U.S. 1


After this country had broken diplomatic relations with Cuba and the Department of State had eliminated Cuba from the area for which passports were not required, appellant applied to have his passport validated for travel to Cuba "to satisfy [his] curiosity . . . and to make [him] a better informed citizen." His request was denied, and he filed suit in federal district court seeking a judgment declaring that he was entitled under the Constitution and laws of the United States to travel to Cuba and to have his passport validated for that purpose, that the Secretary of State's travel restrictions were invalid, and that the Passport Act of 1926 and § 215 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 were unconstitutional. In addition, he prayed that the Secretary and the Attorney General he enjoined from interfering with such travel. A three-judge court granted the Secretary's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action against the Attorney General.


1. Since the complaint launched a substantial constitutional attack upon two federal statutes and prayed that their operation be enjoined, the three-judge court was properly convened. Pp. 381 U. S. 5-7.

2. The Passport Act of 1926 grants authority to the Executive to refuse validation of passports for Cuban travel. Pp. 381 U. S. 7-13.

(a) The consistent interpretation by the Department of State of its authority to impose area restrictions, both before and after chanrobles.com-red

Page 381 U. S. 2

the 1926 enactment, must be given weight by the courts in construing the statute. Pp. 381 U. S. 8-11.

(b) In 1952, Congress enacted legislation relating to passports, but, despite the many executive impositions of area restrictions, it left untouched the broad rulemaking authority granted in the Passport Act of 1926. P. 381 U. S. 12.

(c) This case, where the Secretary's refusal is based on foreign policy considerations affecting all citizens, is distinguished from Kent v. Dulles, 357 U. S. 116, where the passport denial was based on the applicant's political beliefs or associations. Pp. 12-13.

3. The restriction on travel to Cuba does not abridge appellant's constitutional rights. Pp. 381 U. S. 13-18.

(a) The fact that a liberty cannot be inhibited without due process of law does not mean that it can under no circumstances be inhibited. P. 381 U. S. 14.

(b) The restriction here is justified by the weightiest considerations of national security. Pp. 381 U. S. 14-15.

(c) The failure to validate appellant's passport results in an inhibition of action, and not a restriction of a First Amendment right. The right to speak and publish does not carry with it an unrestrained right to gather information. Pp. 381 U. S. 16-17.

(d) The Passport Act of 1926 contains sufficiently definite standards for action, especially since the area is that of foreign affairs, where the Executive has broad authority. P. 381 U. S. 17.

(e) The Passport Act of 1926 does not grant the Executive completely unrestricted freedom of action, as it authorizes only those passport restrictions which it could fairly be argued were adopted by Congress in light of prior administrative practice. Pp. 381 U. S. 17-18.

4. Adjudication of the reach and constitutionality of § 215(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 as applied to travel in violation of an area restriction must await a concrete factual situation. Pp. 381 U. S. 18-20.

228 F.Supp. 65, affirmed. chanrobles.com-red

Page 381 U. S. 3


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