Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698 (1893)

2012-06-22 10:14:08

In the late nineteenth century, amid a rise in anti-alien sentiment, Congress promulgated a series of Chinese Exclusion Acts. The Act of 1892 required all ‘‘Chinese laborers’’ lawfully resident within the United States to apply for certificates of residence and provided for the deportation of those who did not obtain certificates. Failure to obtain the certificate could be excused by a demonstration of ‘‘unavoidable cause’’ and the testimony of ‘‘at least one credible white witness’’ as to lawful residency. Fong Yue Ting and two other Chinese were arrested in New York City for failure to possess certificates. They challenged the constitutionality of the Exclusion Act.

The question of what limits the Constitution places on Congress’s power over aliens had come before the Court before. In Chae Chan Ping v. U.S, the Supreme Court held that Congress possessed full and unrestrained power to exclude aliens as an inherent incident of sovereignty. Fong Yue Ting presented the further question of whether the Constitution constrained the ability of Congress to expel aliens lawfully present within the country. The Court extended the rule of Chae Chan Ping, concluding that the right to expel non-citizens ‘‘rests upon the same grounds, and is as absolute and unqualified, as the right to prohibit and prevent their entrance into the country.’’

The extreme language of Fong Yue Ting has been moderated by subsequent cases such as Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, which affirmed that deportation hearings must comport with procedural due process.


References and Further Reading

  • Henkin, Louis, The Constitution and United States Sovereignty: A Century of Chinese Exclusion and its Progeny, Harvard Law Review 100 (1987): 853.
  • Neuman, Gerald. Strangers to the Constitution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.
  • Tribe, Laurence H. American Constitutional Law. 3rd Ed. New York: Foundation Press, 2000, pp. 967–977.
  • Chin, Gabriel J. Chae Chan Ping and Fong Yue Ting: The origins of plenary power, in Martin, David A., and Peter S. Schuck, eds. Immigrant Stories 7. Foundation Press, 2005.

Cases and Statutes Cited

See also Chae Chan Ping v. U.S., 130 U.S. 581 (1889)and Chinese Exclusion Act; Due Process in Immigration; Undocumented Migrants