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Chae Chan Ping v. United States (Chinese Exclusion Case) 130 U.S. 581 (1889)

CHAE CHAN PING v. UNITED STATES (Chinese Exclusion Case) 130 U.S. 581 (1889)

The chinese exclusion act of 1882 authorized the issuance of certificates to Chinese aliens, guaranteeing their right to reenter the United States after leaving. In 1888 Congress amended that act to prohibit reentry by voiding all outstanding certificates, destroying the right of Chinese to land. Justice stephen j. field, for a unanimous Supreme Court, admitted that this act "is in contravention of express stipulations of the Treaty of 1868 (and other agreements) … but it is not on that account invalid or to be restricted in its enforcement. The treaties were of no greater legal obligation than the Act of Congress." He asserted that the treaties were equivalent to federal statutes and they might thus be "repealed or modified at the pleasure of Congress." Because "no paramount authority is given to one over the other" the government could constitutionally exclude aliens from the United States as "an incident of sovereignty."

David Gordon
(1986)

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