The influential Oyama decision overturned the portions of the California Alien Land Laws that discriminated against U.S. citizens on the basis of race, but the Supreme Court chose not to rule on the constitutionality of discrimination against noncitizens based on their race or ethnicity.
During the 1930’s, Kajiro Oyama, a Japanese immigrant ineligible for American citizenship, purchased eight acres of land in Southern California. Because the state’s Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920 prohibited noncitizens from owning land, he deeded the property to his minor son, Fred Oyama, who was a U.S. citizen by birth. The father then succeeded in gaining legal guardianship over his son. The local court at the time ignored a provision in the 1920 law requiring proof that land transfers in such circumstances were genuine gifts, not subterfuges to evade the restrictions on alien ownership. During World War II, when the Oyama family was displaced and residing in Utah, the state of California seized the family’s eight acres in an escheat trial, based on the accusation that Kajiro Oyama had violated the 1920 law. The state’s highest court upheld the action. Fred Oyama, with the support of the
By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fred Oyama’s favor and struck down relevant portions of the Alien Land Laws as inconsistent with the
Chuman, Frank. The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese Americans. Del Mar, Calif.: Publisher’s Inc., 1976. Itō, Kazuo. Issei: A History of Japanese Immigrants in North America. Seattle: Japanese Community Service, 1973.
Alien land laws
History of immigration after 1891
Sei Fujii v. State of California
Supreme Court, U.S.
Terrace v. Thompson