Although the case’s theoretical foundations were notoriously unclear, in the Passenger Cases the Supreme Court held that the individual states did not have the authority to tax immigrants entering the country, nor did they have the right to regulate commerce with foreign nations.
Massachusetts and New York enacted legislation that charged ships’ captains with a fee on every incoming passenger, including immigrants and foreign visitors. When the issue reached the Supreme Court, the justices voted 5-4 to strike down the laws, thereby overruling the precedent of New York v. Miln (1837). Among the eight separate and confusing opinions, at least three justices based their decision on the commerce clause of 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.
Head Money Cases
Henderson v. Mayor of the City of New York
History of immigration, 1783-1891
Supreme Court, U.S.