Chae Chan Ping v. United States

130 U.S. 581 Supreme Court 1889
foreignersfrom all parts of the worldarrivedinthisnation,strangers in the landthemselves, andinno distant daypetitioned earnestlythatimmigration wasa menace to our civilization;butThiswasnevertheirland

In 1868, China and the United States entered into a treaty which granted China most favored nation status and encouraged immigrant labor from China, but withheld the privilege of naturalization. In 1880, the treaty was amended to suspend immigration from China, and the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882 forbidding immigration of Chinese laborers. Chinese laborers who were already in the country were able to travel abroad and return so long as they obtained “Certificates of Return” prior to travel. However, enforcement of the laws was problematic, and Congress went on to invalidate the return documents. This led to about 20,000 Chinese laborers being stuck outside of the country, including Chae Chan Ping, who was stranded on a boat in the port of San Francisco.

Petitioning through a writ of habeas corpus - a recourse in law where a person can report unlawful detention - Chae Chan Ping’s case made its way to the Supreme Court, where he challenged the authority of Federal legislative and executive authorities to overturn international treaties without judicial oversight. The Supreme Court ruled that the legislature and executive had “plenary powers” (authority subject to no review or limitations upon the exercise of that power) to pass new legislation that supercedes prior treaties, and that the treaties are valid law until legislation overrides them. Since plenary power severely limit judicial oversight, this decision expanded the Federal government’s powers over immigration.

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