Statutes that regulate the entry of non-U.S. citizens into the United States.
The Supreme Court has less control over immigration law than over almost any other area of the legal system because congressional power over the immigration of aliens into the country is considered part of the nation’s sovereignty. During the first hundred years of U.S. history, there were few immigration laws to concern the Court. With the exception of the short-lived and controversial Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which gave the president power to deport immigrants judged to be dangerous, the federal government made little effort to regulate immigration. Congress did not even create a federal bureau to deal with questions of immigration until 1864, when it appropriated funds for a commissioner of immigration and a staff of five officials to assist immigrants with transportation and settlement problems.
Immigration law is largely the province of Congress, not the Supreme Court. In this 1924 photo, officers of the U.S. Public Health Service inspect passengers who have arrived from Asia.
Despite its relative lack of involvement in questions of immigration, though, the Court did help lay the groundwork for federal control of the entry of aliens into the United States. As numbers of immigrants increased, states with large ports that served as points of entry began issuing their own regulations. New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Massachusetts set health standards for new arrivals and taxed shipmasters. In 1876 the issue of state control of immigrants came before the Court in the case of Henderson v. Mayor of New York
Congress replaced older state regulations by imposing a duty of fifty cents per foreign passenger on ships bringing in passengers from foreign countries. In the Head Money Cases
One of the earliest pieces of major immigration legislation was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
The right of Congress to act as a sovereign government has enabled Congress to bar the entry of certain groups of people, including convicts, prostitutes, and people who hold objectionable political beliefs. The Court has repeatedly upheld these exclusions. Although U.S. immigration law no longer discriminates on the basis of race, this has not been a result of any action of the Court but because of laws passed by Congress.
Deportation is the act of sending a noncitizen who has entered the United States, either legally or illegally, then been denied the right to remain, back to his or her country of origin. The Court officially recognized the right of Congress to enact deportation laws in the 1892 case Nishimura Ekiu v. United States
Although the Court has recognized the right of Congress to establish and enforce immigration policy, it has sometimes restricted the immigration activities of the government when the immigrants are actually inside U.S. territory. In Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath
The principle of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures
Baldwin, Carl R. Immigration: Questions and Answers. New York: Allworth Press, 1995. Daniels, Roger. Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882. New York: Hill & Wang, 2004. Helewitz, Jeffrey A. U.S. Immigration Law. Dallas: Pearson Publications, 1998. Hing, Bill Ong. Defining America Through Immigration Policy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004. Jacoby, Tamar, ed. Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means to Be American. New York: Basic Books, 2004. Neuman, Gerald L. Strangers to the Constitution: Immigrants, Borders, and Fundamental Law. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996. Williams, Mary E., ed. Immigration: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004.
Alien land laws
Alien rights and naturalization
Commerce, regulation of
Separation of powers