Upholding the constitutionality of the Geary Act of 1892, the controversial Fong Yue Ting decision recognized that the U.S. Congress had almost unlimited discretion to establish all aspects of the nation’s immigration policy, including the rules and procedures for alien registration and deportation.
Because Fong Yue Ting was an immigrant laborer born in China to Chinese parents, he was ineligible for U.S. naturalization. He wanted to continue living in the United States but did have the certificate of residence that was required by the Geary Act. Following his arrest by a federal marshal, a district judge of New York ordered his immediate deportation without a hearing of any kind. Fong appealed the action, claiming that he had applied for a certificate but could not supply the “credible white witness” required by the Geary Act. Because he had only Chinese acquaintances, he argued that the law’s requirement was unfair, but a federal court of appeals quickly rejected his argument. Eventually, his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
By a 6-3 vote, a divided Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the two lower courts. Writing on behalf of the majority, Justice
McClain, Charles. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. Salyer, Lucy. Laws as Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
Chinese Exclusion Cases
Geary Act of 1892
Supreme Court, U.S.