Mezei (plaintiff) was born in Gibraltar to Eastern European parents and lived in the United States from 1923 to 1948. In 1948, he left the country for Romania to visit his dying mother. He was denied entry and remained in Hungary for 19 months until he received an immigration visa and returned to the United States. When he arrived at the United States in 1950, he was excluded from entry by the immigration inspector. The Attorney General reviewed the evidence and ordered the exclusion made permanent. However, Mezei remained on Ellis Island because no other country would allow him entry. In 1951, the District Court for the Southern District of New York sustained his writ of habeas corpus and paroled Mezei on bond. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a divided vote. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the government’s appeal.