An annotated list of important immigration-related U.S. court decisions.
Osborn v. Bank of the United States
22 U.S. 738
Decision in which Chief Justice
New York v. Miln*
38 U.S. 102
Authorized the states to regulate immigrants entering through state ports, based on the doctrine of state police power. Twelve years later, however, the Court would reverse this ruling in the Passenger Cases.
46 U.S. 504
Held that Congress’s broad authority to regulate foreign and interstate commerce was limited by the police powers of the individual states.
48 U.S. 283
Held that the individual states did not have constitutional authority to tax immigrants entering the country, overturning New York v. Miln (1837).
Cooley v. Port of Pennsylvania
53 U.S. 299
Established the pragmatic compromise called “selective exclusiveness,” which allowed the states to regulate commerce in local matters, while prohibiting state regulations that interfered with aspects requiring national uniformity.
Chy Lung v. Freeman*
92 U.S. 275
Held that fees and restrictions by the states on aliens entering the country were unconstitutionally unless absolutely necessary and reasonable.
Henderson v. Mayor of the City of New York*
92 U.S. 259
Recognized that the exclusive power of Congress to regulate international commerce included the landing of passengers, thereby striking down state immigration laws interfering with national uniformity.
Chew Heong v. United States*
112 U.S. 536
This first of the Chinese exclusion cases affirmed that a Chinese citizen had the benefit of rights promised in treaties with China that had not been clearly and explicitly repealed by Congress.
Head Money Cases*
112 U.S. 580
Upheld a federal tax on immigrants as “a mere incident of the regulation of commerce,” thereby helping to consolidate federal control over immigration.
Yick Wo v. Hopkins*
118 U.S. 356
First case in which the Court held that a racially neutral law applied in a discriminatory manner violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Chae Chan Ping v. United States*
130 U.S. 581
Recognized the sovereign power of Congress to exclude any group from immigration and to abrogate or modify treaties.
Nishimura Ekiu v. United States*
142 U.S. 651
Upheld enforcement of the
Fong Yue Ting v. United States*
149 U.S. 698
Lem Moon Sing v. United States*
158 U.S. 538
Upheld a federal law prohibiting district courts from reviewing habeas corpus petitions by alien immigrants, thereby empowering immigration officials to exclude or deport without any judicial review.
Wong Wing v. United States*
163 U.S. 228
Prohibited criminal punishment of noncitizens without a jury trial and other constitutional rights, but reaffirmed the authority of Congress to authorize their deportation without trials.
United States v. Wong Kim Ark*
169 U.S. 649
Ruled that under the Fourteenth Amendment’s citizenship clause any person born on American soil is a U.S. citizen, even when parents are illegal aliens and ineligible for citizenship.
Chin Bak Kan v. United States*
186 U.S. 193
Authorized vigorous enforcement of the
Turner v. Williams
194 U.S. 279
Upheld the expulsion of an immigrant because of his advocacy of anarchism, thereby approving the Immigration Act of 1903, which excluded aliens simply because of their political beliefs.
United States v. Ju Toy*
198 U.S. 253
Authorized officials of the executive branch to make the final determination of a resident Chinese’s claim to citizenship without any review by the federal courts.
Patsone v. Pennsylvania
232 U.S. 138
Upheld a state law that prohibited noncitizens from hunting wild game in the state.
Truax v. Raich*
239 U.S. 33
Struck down a state law that required eighty percent of workers in most businesses to be citizens, based on the equal right of noncitizens to earn a livelihood in common occupations.
Ozawa v. United States*
260 U.S. 178
Defined the word “white” in U.S. naturalization law as meaning a person of European racial ancestry–thus disqualifying all persons of Asian ancestry from naturalization.
Terrace v. Thompson*
263 U.S. 197
Upheld the validity of a state law that prohibited noncitizens from owning or leasing land for the purpose of agriculture.
United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind*
261 U.S. 204
Held that the word “white” in immigration law did not refer to light-skinned immigrants from India, thus making them ineligible for naturalized citizenship.
Asakura v. City of Seattle*
265 U.S. 332
Gave relatively liberal interpretations to foreign treaties that guaranteed the civil rights of particular aliens in the United States.
Chang Chan v. Nagle*
268 U.S. 346
Upheld a law disallowing some foreign wives of U.S. citizens from entering the country.
Cheung Sum Shee v. Nagle*
268 U.S. 336
Held that treaties with foreign countries guaranteeing rights for their citizens were legally binding unless they had clearly and explicitly been abrogated by Congress.
Jordan v. Tashiro*
278 U.S. 123
Held that treaties with Japan guaranteed the right of Japanese citizens to operate trading businesses in the United States–overruling limited parts of the California Land Law.
United States v. Macintosh
283 U.S. 605
Upheld a law prohibiting naturalization for persons not promising to bear arms in U.S. wars and recognized the broad discretion of Congress to establish such restrictions.
Schneiderman v. United States
320 U.S. 118
Korematsu v. United States
323 U.S. 214
Upheld the emergency relocation of persons of Japanese ancestry following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, but declared that racial classifications were “inherently suspect” and must be judged by the “most rigid scrutiny.”
Knauer v. United States
328 U.S. 654
Upheld a denaturalization order for an immigrant from Germany who had intended to promote Nazism when applying for citizenship and had taken a false oath of allegiance.
Ludecke v. Watkins
335 U.S. 160
Recognized that an alien resident could not be deported without a deportation proceeding, which included reasonable notice, a fair hearing, and an order based on adequate evidence.
Oyama v. California*
332 U.S. 633
Overturned the portions of the California Alien Land Laws that discriminated against Asian Americans who were citizens by birth, but without any affect on Asian immigrants.
United States ex rel. Knauff v. Shaughnessy
338 U.S. 537
Upheld the government’s inherent authority to disallow the return of an alien of permanent resident status who had lived abroad for nineteen months.
Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath
339 U.S. 33
Reaffirmed the constitutional right of aliens to a fair hearing before deportation, except for those who had recently entered the country illegally.
Carlson v. Landon
342 U.S. 524
Upheld the detaining of five aliens awaiting determination of deportability for Communist membership, without any right of judicial review.
Harisiades v. Shaughnessy
342 U.S. 580
Upheld the constitutionality of the
Galvan v. Press*
347 U.S. 522
Upheld the deportation of a resident alien who had belonged to the
Schneider v. Rusk
377 U.S. 163
Struck down the provision in federal law that had revoked the citizenship of naturalized citizens who returned to their country of origin for three years.
Afroyim v. Rusk*
387 U.S. 253
Established that U.S. citizenship may not be revoked involuntarily for actions such as voting in a foreign country.
Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service*
387 U.S. 118
Based on congressional intent and psychiatric ideas of the time, the Supreme Court upheld the government’s policy of classifying gays and lesbians as ineligible for immigration.
Graham v. Richardson*
403 U.S. 365
Landmark decision holding that alienage is a suspect classification and that states may not deny welfare benefits to alien residents.
In Re Griffiths
413 U.S. 717
Permitted the states to prohibit resident aliens from practicing law.
Matthews v. Dias
426 U.S. 67
Upheld the constitutionality of a provision in the
Sugarman v. Dougall
413 U.S. 634
Recognized that aliens may be excluded from elective positions and from nonelective positions that involve the formation or execution of public policy–a major exception to Graham v. Richardson (1971).
Lau v. Nichols*
414 U.S. 563
Required school districts to provide compensatory training for students with limited English proficiency, but allowed school districts to decide the methods of instruction.
United States v. Brignoni-Ponce
422 U.S. 873
Required that before “roving patrols” near the Mexican border stop vehicles to question occupants, their officers must have reasonable grounds to think that the vehicles contain passengers who are in the country illegally.
Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong*
426 U.S. 88
Held that federal agencies may not refuse to employ noncitizens except when the Congress expressly establishes the policy based on an overriding national interest.
Castaneda v. Partida
430 U.S. 482
Concluded that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate unconstitutional racial discrimination in jury selections by Texas border counties.
Fiallo v. Bell
430 U.S. 787
Upheld gender discrimination in the
Foley v. Connelie*
435 U.S. 291
Upheld a New York law prohibiting noncitizens from serving as police officers and undertaking other kinds of work involving discretion in administering public policy.
Ambach v. Norwick
441 U.S. 68
Upheld a New York State law that disallowed aliens who were eligible for citizenship from teaching in the public schools.
Vance v. Terrazas
444 U.S. 252
Held that a person’s citizenship status can be revoked when the government demonstrates, by a preponderance of evidence, that the person intended to surrender the status.
Fedorenko v. United States*
449 U.S. 490
Allowed the revocation of naturalized citizenship because a person had intentionally provided false information to enter the country and apply for naturalization.
Cabell v. Chavez Salido
454 U.S. 432
Expanding Foley v. Connelie (1978), the Court allowed California to require citizenship for “peace officers” who exercise discretion as part of their duties.
Plyler v. Doe*
457 U.S. 202
Held that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited states from denying a public education to any child residing in the country illegally.
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha*
462 U.S. 919
Prohibited legislation authorizing one house of Congress to override a decision made by the executive branch.
Bernal v. Fainter*
467 U.S. 216
Struck down a state law prohibiting aliens from working as notary publics and held that laws discriminating against resident aliens must be justified by compelling governmental interests.
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Lopez-Mendoza*
468 U.S. 1032
Upheld deportation proceedings without full Fourth Amendment rights, thereby allowing immigration officials to introduce some improperly acquired evidence in the proceedings.
Sale v. Haitian Centers Council*
509 U.S. 155
Allowed the government to capture fleeing refugees before they reached the shores of the United States and to return them to Haiti, even if the refugees faced political persecution.
Miller v. Albright
523 U.S. 420
Upheld a federal law making acquisition of citizenship more difficult for a foreign-born, illegitimate child when the father is a U.S. citizen than when the mother is a citizen.
Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee*
525 U.S. 471
Upheld a federal statute that severely restricted the rights of alien residents to challenge deportation orders in federal court, even in cases with an alleged violation of constitutional rights.
Bond v. United States
529 U.S. 334
Held that a Border Patrol agent in Texas violated the Fourth Amendment when he physically manipulated a bus passenger’s bag, based on the owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
Calcano-Martinez v. Immigration and Naturalization Service
533 U.S. 348
Held that federal circuit courts did not have jurisdiction to review cases of permanent residents subject to removal, but that petitioners may seek relief in district courts.
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr*
533 U.S. 289
Held that immigration law had not removed the jurisdiction of federal courts to review habeas corpus petitions from resident aliens deportable because of felony convictions.
Nguyen v. Immigration and Naturalization Service*
533 U.S. 53
Reaffirmed the constitutionality of federal gender-based preferences in the citizenship rights of illegitimate, foreign-born children who have one parent who is a U.S. citizen.
Zadvydas v. Davis*
533 U.S. 678
Restricted the length of time for detaining noncitizens awaiting deportation, except when the government can demonstrate aggravating circumstances.
Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board
535 U.S. 137
Held that the
Fernandez-Vargas v. Gonzales
548 U.S. 30
Held that the immigration law of 1996 did not apply retroactively to an alien who had illegally reentered the country before 1996.
Lopez v. Gonzales
549 U.S. 47
Disallowed removal proceedings against a legally permanent resident because of a felony conviction in state court, when the offense is only a misdemeanor under federal law.
Dada v. Mukasey*
A complex interpretation of immigration law, holding that an alien has the right to withdraw a motion of voluntary departure and to present new arguments for remaining in the U.S.
Flores-Figueroa v. United States
Held that to prosecute an illegal immigrant for identity theft felony, prosecutors must show that the user knew that the false social security number belonged to another person.
Afroyim v. Rusk
Asakura v. City of Seattle
Bernal v. Fainter
Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service
Chae Chan Ping v. United States
Chang Chan v. Nagle
Cheung Sum Shee v. Nagle
Chew Heong v. United States
Chin Bak Kan v. United States
Chinese Exclusion Cases
Chy Lung v. Freeman
Dada v. Mukasey
Fedorenko v. United States
Foley v. Connelie
Fong Yue Ting v. United States
Galvan v. Press
Graham v. Richardson
Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong
Head Money Cases
Henderson v. Mayor of the City of New York
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Lopez-Mendoza
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr
Jordan v. Tashiro
Lau v. Nichols
Lem Moon Sing v. United States
New York v. Miln
Nguyen v. Immigration and Naturalization Service
Nishimura Ekiu v. United States
Oyama v. California
Ozawa v. United States
Plyler v. Doe
Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Sale v. Haitian Centers Council
Sei Fujii v. State of California
Terrace v. Thompson
United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind
United States v. Ju Toy
United States v. Wong Kim Ark
Wong Wing v. United States
Yick Wo v. Hopkins
Zadvydas v. Davis