The Nishimura Ekiu decision recognized the constitutionality of a federal law that authorized immigration officials to refuse to admit aliens into the country, without any opportunity for habeas corpus relief. The ruling also ignored minor procedural mistakes by immigration officials acting in pursuance of the law.
Nishimura Ekiu, a female citizen of Japan, arrived at the port of San Francisco in 1891. When she was interviewed by immigration officials, she claimed that she was going to meet her husband, who was living in the United States, but did not know his address. Having only twenty-two dollars in her possession, she said that she would stay at a hotel until her husband called her. A recent federal law of 1891 required the U.S. Treasury Department to refuse admittance to several categories of persons, including persons without succifient financial resources to avoid becoming public charges. After officials refused to allow Nishimura into the country, she petitioned the district court for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that denial of such relief would deprive her of liberty without due process of law.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 8-1 to approve both the constitutionality of the 1891 law and the officials’ refusal to allow Nishimura to land. Writing the majority opinion, Justice
Galloway, Donald. Immigration Law. Concord, Ont.: Irwin Law, 1997. LeMay, Michael, and Elliott Robert Barkan, eds. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.
History of immigration, 1783-1891
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr
Lem Moon Sing v. United States
Supreme Court, U.S.
United States v. Ju Toy