A major setback for legally admitted immigrants from Asia, the Terrace decision upheld the validity of state laws prohibiting Asians from owning or leasing land for the purpose of agriculture.
In 1921, the Washington State legislature enacted a law that prohibited aliens from buying or selling land for agricultural purposes unless they had “in good faith declared their intention to become citizens of the United States.” The law, which was enforced by severe criminal sanctions, did not make any exception for Asian residents who were legally disqualified from becoming naturalized citizens. Terrace, an alien Japanese farmer wanting to lease land, argued in court that the law violated both the Fourteenth Amendment and a treaty with Japan that guaranteed the right of Japanese citizens to participate in trade on an equal basis with U.S. citizens.
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, rejected Terrace’s arguments. Although the Court in
Chuman, Frank. The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese Americans. Del Mar, Calif.: Publisher’s Inc., 1976. Hyung-chan, Kim, ed. Asian Americans and the Supreme Court: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992.
Oyama v. California
Ozawa v. United States
Supreme Court, U.S.
Truax v. Raich