Chae Chan Ping and Fong Yue Ting: The Origins of Plenary Power
IMMIGRATION LAW STORIES, David Martin and Peter Schuck, eds., Foundation Press 2005
32 Pages Posted: 19 May 2005
This paper, a chapter in the forthcoming Immigration Law Stories, describes the cases establishing the legal foundations of the constitutional law of immigration. Chae Chan Ping v. United States (1889) involved a resident noncitizen who left the United States with a document allowing his return; in furtherance of its policy of restricting Chinese immigration (at this time immigration by members of other races was not numerically restricted) Congress voided the reentry documents while Chae Chan Ping was on the boat back to the U.S. Fong Yue Ting v. United States (1893) involved a challenge to a federal statute requiring Chinese noncitizens (but not foreign nationals of other racial groups) to register on pain of deportation.
The cases represent an early example of an impact litigation campaign. The Chinese in these cases (and in other immigration cases in the Supreme Court) were represented by the leaders of the American bar, men with wide legal and political experience, who were paid by contributions from members of the Chinese community across the country.
Notwithstanding the eminence and skill of the counsel for the Chinese, the Supreme Court upheld the actions of Congress. Given the important individual interests involved and the racially discriminatory purposes and effects of the laws, these decisions were portentous. Although dating to an earlier time when racial discrimination was an open goal of public policy, they continue to define the broad scope of federal power over immigration.
Keywords: Immigration, race discrimination, constitutional law
JEL Classification: K4, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation