Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute: Kessler Vs. Strecker

May 6, 2019

Kessler vs. Strecker, a 1939 deportation case, reached the Supreme Court of the United States and continues to be cited in cases involving undocumented immigrants.

Hot Springs restaurant owner Joseph Strecker immigrated to the U.S. in 1912 and applied for citizenship in 1933. He was arrested for having donated sixty cents to a Communist presidential candidate the year before and ordered deported.

Strecker fought the deportation, his lawyer saying the First Amendment protected aliens and citizens alike, and the case was heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a judge found Strecker “a merchant with little capital, some canniness, a fair amount of human kindness, some bad habits, and apparently no quarrel with the government of the United States.”

An appeal to the Supreme Court upheld the Fifth Circuit, with the majority finding the Red Scare laws under which Strecker was charged lacked “a clear and definite expression.”

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