TROP v. DULLES
In 1944, United States Army private Albert Trop escaped from a military stockade at Casablanca, Morocco, following his confinement for a disciplinary violation. A day later, Trop willingly surrendered to an army truck headed back to Casablanca. Despite testifying that he "decided to return to the stockade" when he was picked up, a general court martial convicted Trop of desertion and sentenced him to three years at hard labor, loss of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge. In 1952, Trop applied for a passport. His application was rejected under Section 401(g) of the amended 1940 Nationality Act, on the ground that he lost his citizenship due to his conviction and dishonorable discharge for wartime desertion. After failing to obtain a declaratory judgment that he was a US citizen, from both a district and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Trop appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted certiorari.
Did Section 401(g) of the amended 1940 Nationality Act (the "Act") allow for an unconstitutional punishment by authorizing the expatriation of a citizen convicted of wartime desertion?
Legal provision: Immigration and Naturalization, Immigration, Nationality, or Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Acts, as amended
Yes. After finding that Section 401(g) of the amended Act was penal in nature, since it punished convicted deserters with denationalization, the Court held that expatriation was barred by the Eighth Amendment as a cruel and unusual penal remedy. Citizenship, the Court stated, is not a license that expires upon misbehavior. Rather, it can only be voluntarily renounced by express language and, or, conduct. Since Trop did not involve himself in any way with a foreign state, so as to demonstrate disloyalty to the United States, his court martial conviction of desertion did not justify his expatriation.