Chae Chan Ping at 125: An Introduction

5 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2015

See all articles by Kit Johnson

Kit Johnson

University of Oklahoma - College of Law

Date Written: September 24, 2015


In 2014, the University of Oklahoma College of Law held a symposium to mark the 125th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Chae Chan Ping v. United States, 130 U.S. 581 (1889), also known as the Chinese Exclusion Case. Chae Chan Ping was a Chinese migrant who had lived in the United States for 12 years before he left the country, which he did only after obtaining legal permission to return. While Chae Chan Ping was at sea on his way back to the United States, Congress passed a law revoking reentry certificates for Chinese migrants, and Chae Chan Ping was denied reentry. A unanimous Supreme Court determined that Congress’ decision to revoke the reentry certificates was “conclusive upon the judiciary.” That holding has become known as the “plenary power doctrine,” and it has been foundational to constitutional immigration jurisprudence. Under this doctrine, any laws passed by Congress with respect to immigration, even those that would be unconstitutional if applied to citizens, are not subject to judicial challenge. In this introduction, I explain the relevance of this seminal decision and introduce the symposium contributions.

Keywords: immigration, plenary power, constitutional law, symposium

JEL Classification: K1, K10

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Kit, Chae Chan Ping at 125: An Introduction (September 24, 2015). Oklahoma Law Review, Vol. 68, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Kit Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma - College of Law ( email )

300 Timberdell Road
Norman, OK 73019
United States


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