Race, Religion and Nationality in Immigration Selection: 120 Years after the Chinese Exclusion Case
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 26, p. 237, 2010
53 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2009 Last revised: 21 Jul 2013
Date Written: October 21, 2009
In May 1889, in the Chinese Exclusion Case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Congress has the power to exclude people of Chinese descent from U.S. territory. 120 years have since passed: is this case a relic from another era or still good law? In this article, the authors discuss the question whether race, religion and nationality still matter in the process of immigration selection. They demonstrate how official and central racial classifications remain in current immigration policy. The authors then consider a normative question: is the use of race, religion and nationality in immigration selection legally permitted? They analyze this question under the lens of three normative disciplines: constitutional law, international law and moral philosophy. They show that under each of these disciplines, some forms of race-based criteria are generally permitted in the process of immigrant selection. Focusing on protecting national security as a case study, the authors nevertheless challenge the use of racial immigration criteria based on utilitarian grounds. They show how the use of race in immigrant selection often lacks statistical correlation, is not cost-effective, and is likely to be over-inclusive and far in excess of its potential contribution due to cognitive biases and heuristic judgment. They conclude by suggesting four alternative methods for selecting immigrants: universal selection, positive selection, random selection and racial selection with just compensation.
Keywords: immigration selection, race and religion, Chinese Exclusion Case, Kiyemba v. Obama
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