• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court approved a statute allowing Congress to levy a head tax on immigrants, thereby establishing congressional power over immigration and taxes imposed for other purposes.

Early immigration was handled by the states, some of which imposed a head tax on every immigrant a shipper delivered to the United States to create a fund to alleviate immigrants in financial distress. The Supreme Court struck down these state laws as an interference with congressional power in the Passenger Cases[case]Passenger Cases[Passenger Cases] (1849). To help the states deal with the financial burden of indigent immigrants, Congress passed a per capita tax on immigrants, which it collected and gave to the affected states. Litigants challenged the tax, claiming that Congress could not impose a tax unless it was for the common defense or general welfare of the people. Justice Samuel F. MillerMiller, Samuel F.;Head Money Cases[Head Money Cases] wrote the unanimous opinion rejecting their claim. He maintained that immigration was a form of commerce over which Congress had broad authority and the tax in this case was really a fee associated with regulating commerce.Taxing and spending clause;Head Money Cases[Head Money Cases]Immigration law;Head Money Cases[Head Money Cases]

Commerce, regulation of

Immigration law

Passenger Cases

Taxing and spending clause

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