If a law says that every member of a certain class of people must keep "any" of a list of documents that might be issued to them, does that mean that such people must keep all of those documents, if they are issued more than one?

The specific statute that inspired this question is 8 USC 1304 (e):

Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d). Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

And a particular case of multiple documents I'm interested in, as an example, is that of an I-94 Arrival-Departure Record and an I-766, Employment Authorization Document. Both are prescribed in 8 CFR 264.1 as "evidence of registration." If a nonimmigrant alien has both documents, does the law require her to carry both in her personal possession?


2 Answers 2


The plain meaning of "any" is "all". That does not mean that that is how the word is interpreted under current US law: that can only be determined by inspecting the case law. In US v. Alabama 443 Fed. Appx. 411 (No. 11-14532-CC), fn. 2 states "Pursuant to § 1304(e), every alien eighteen years of age and older must carry a certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card", thus this court has suggested that the meaning is actually "some". However, the case was not ruling on the interpretation of "any" here, so this could be a slip. The case involves an Alabama law, which as reported in the opinion's summary of the part of Alabama law being challenged by the US states:

Section 10 creates a criminal misdemeanor violation under Alabama law for "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document if the person is in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) or 8 U.S.C. § 1306(a)..."

indicating that the Alabama statute refers to "some" (which could influence the interpretation of "any", since "some" and "any" are often mixed up in legal drafting). That is, it is possible that the court in the footnote read "any" as "some" because the state law in question, which is parallel to the federal law, says "an".

In US v Arizona 641 F.3d 339, the court weakly suggests a "some" interpretation as well, saying:

Determining Congress' purpose, and whether Section 3 poses an obstacle to it, first requires that we evaluate the text of the federal registration requirements in in 8 U.S.C. §§ 1304 and 1306. These sections create a comprehensive scheme for immigrant registration, including penalties for failure to carry one's registration document at all times..

Again, the meaning of "any" is not the central issue: in using "one's registration document" in the singular, the court must have been interpreting "any" as "some".

US v. Daubon 334 Fed.Appx. 167 (2009), another case that invokes the law but does not rule on the meaning of "any", rephrases the law:

8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) requires every alien over eighteen to carry his permanent resident card at all times.

which is at odds with the possibility of there being two such documents: it suggests that an I-766 is not good enough.

Lexis-Nexis returns 18 cases that cite this statute, and only Arizona v. US which was about the preemption issue was decided by SCOTUS. None of these opinions rules on the meaning of "any", so the matter has not yet been decided.

  • Thanks. These examples show that most people writing about this issue don't really understand immigration documents at all. The permanent resident card in US v. Daubon is of course the "green card" -- and people who have one of those wouldn't have the other listed documents, which is why I didn't mention it. But of course, there will be many aliens who don't have a green card, so one shouldn't read too much into that, I don't think.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 23:11
  • In particular, a permanent resident would not have an I-766 (EAD) unless it had been issued before the person became a permanent resident. I don't know whether they revoke the EAD in such cases.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 23:22

Statutory construction is always very context specific and often tries to capture the intent of the legislature in trying to craft laws. In this case, if you have both a receipt card and a certificate, if there is a reason why carrying both is important, the courts would probably consider the term any to be inclusive. If you are wondering if you need to carry an expired, replaced, or otherwise non-effective certificate or receipt in addition to a current valid one, then as this would not serve the purpose of the law it would probably not be required.

  • Ah, no, I'm actually wondering whether someone who has both an I-94 and an employment authorization card is supposed to carry both according to the text, or whether having just one of them would satisfy the statutory requirement. I'll edit the question to clarify.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 21:19

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