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Maurice A. Roberts, 1910-2001

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 01110531 (posted Nov. 5, 2001)"

The following biography was provided courtesy of Interpreter Releases:

Maurice A. Roberts, former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), died on November 2, 2001, at the age of 91. Mr. Roberts, well-known and loved in his field as the "dean of immigration law," was active as a lecturer at law schools and symposiums on immigration law and procedure.

Mr. Roberts was also the author of numerous law review articles and papers in the field. During his long public service career, both with the BIA and with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Mr. Roberts participated in some of the most important immigration cases in U.S. history. Much of the public's understanding of immigration law has been the result Mr. Roberts' work. He spent much of his time freely sharing his unparalleled knowledge and helping counsel formulate winning strategies.

Mr. Roberts was born in 1910 in Newark, New Jersey. He received his law degree summa cum laude from the Rutgers University Law School in 1932. Admitted to the New Jersey bar that year, he practiced law in Newark, New Jersey until March 1941, when he entered the INS. In the INS from 1941-1955, he was successively a naturalization examiner, special inspector, and Chief, Adjudications Division, in the Philadelphia District Office. In the INS Central Office in Washington, D.C., he was Assistant Chief, Investigations, and Deputy General Counsel. In the Department of Justice's Criminal Division from 1955-1968, he was active in the Immigration Litigation Unit, which supervised the conduct of lower federal court litigation under the immigration and nationality laws, and was head of the Unit from 1965-1968. Among the many Supreme Court cases in which he participated in drafting the government's brief were Shaughnessy v. Mezei, 345 U.S. 206 (1953); Marcello v. Bonds, 349 U.S. 302 (1955); and Rosenberg v. Fleuti, 374 U.S. 449 (1963). Among the cases he argued for the government in the Supreme Court were Hintopoulos v. Shaughnessy, 353 U.S. 72 (1957) and Chaunt v. United States, 364 U.S. 350 (1960).

From 1968 to his retirement from government service in November 1974, Mr. Roberts was Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals, which acts for the Attorney General in hearing and determining appeals from various INS decisions, as well as orders of Immigration Judges in deportation and exclusion cases. On retirement from the Board in November 1974, Mr. Roberts assumed editorship of Interpreter Releases, a leading weekly periodical on immigration and nationality law now in its 78th year of publication. He first became Editor-in-Chief of that publication and was later named Editor Emeritus, a title he held until his death. He was also the former Executive Editor of the monthly Immigration Briefings. Both periodicals are now published by West Group. Mr. Roberts also co-authored Understanding the 1986 Immigration Law, which was published by Federal Publications Inc.

His career was dedicated to the principles of justice, fundamental fairness, and due process in U.S. immigration law and administration. For example, Mr. Roberts was one of the INS officials designated to conduct hearings after World War II in the cases of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry who were interned by the U.S. government. Many renounced their U.S. citizenship while confined, and it was Mr. Roberts' job to determine which renunciants acted out of loyalty to Japan; these were to be deported to Japan. Mr. Roberts conducted hearings in 197 cases and recommended against deportation in 186 cases, finding on the evidence that those renunciations had not been made because of disloyalty to the U.S., but rather because of the internees' resentment at being unjustly confined on the basis of racial and national origin discrimination, which undermined the supposed voluntariness of the renunciations. Mr. Roberts also prosecuted deportation proceedings against high-ranking Communists in the U.S. during the Cold War, including Gerhard Eisler, the Communist International representative in the U.S.

Mr. Roberts was the recipient of many awards, honors, and tributes, such as the Attorney General's Medallion (1974); the Founder's Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) (1975); the AILA Edith Lowenstein Award (1986); and plaques from the Immigration Committees of the New Jersey State Bar Association (1983) and the Federal Bar Association (1988), the National Center for Immigrants' Rights, Inc. (1988), and the Washington, D.C. Chapter of AILA (1988), as well as a tribute by Carolyn Waller placed in the Congressional Record in 1990 by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. During his long career, Mr. Roberts was a member of the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the American Immigration Law Foundation, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

 
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