Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983)

Jagdish Chadha, then a British citizen of East Indian descent, was lawfully admitted to the United States in 1966 on a nonimmigrant student visa. After it expired, the Immigration and Naturalization Service proceeded to deport Chadha who, although conceding his deportability, applied to the immigration judge for a suspension of deportation. Pursuant to the authority delegated to him by the attorney general, the immigration judge granted Chadha’s application, which allowed him to remain in the United States. The immigration judge then reported this action to Congress, and the House of Representatives decided to nullify the judge’s ruling pursuant to a statutorily granted one- House legislative veto. Chadha challenged this veto power in federal court, arguing its unconstitutionality.

The Supreme Court agreed, holding that vesting veto power in a single chamber of Congress violated the doctrine of separation of powers by giving the House legislative powers that the Constitution expressly assigns to both the Senate and the House, subject to presentment to the president or, in case of the president’s veto, congressional override. From an immigrant rights perspective, the Chadha Court’s decision to favor the noncitizen’s rights over Congress’s plenary power over immigration is extraordinary and unusual, for rarely has the Court curtailed Congress’s immigration authority, let alone on constitutional grounds. More likely, Chadha expresses the Court’s concern over the Constitution’s allocation of legislative power and how Congress’s creation of a unicameral legislative veto exceeded the permissible scope of its otherwise plenary power over immigration.

VICTOR C. ROMERO

References and Further Reading

  • Craig, Barbara H. Chadha—The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
  • Legomsky, Stephen H., Immigration Law and the Principle of Plenary Congressional Power, The Supreme Court Review (1985): 255–307.
  • Strauss, Peter L., Was There a Baby in the Bathwater? A Comment on the Supreme Court’s Legislative Veto Decision, Duke Law Journal (1983): 789–819.

See also Aliens, Civil Liberties of; Due Process in Immigration

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