|Chy Lung v. Freeman|
|Argued January 13–14, 1876|
Decided March 20, 1876
|Full case name||Chy Lung v. Freeman|
|Citations||92 U.S. 275 (more)|
2 Otto 275; 23 L. Ed. 550
|Prior||Appeal from the California High Court|
|The power to set rules surrounding immigration, and to manage relations with foreign relations, rested with the US government, rather than the states.|
|Majority||Miller, joined by unanimous|
Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1876), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the powers to set rules surrounding immigration and to manage foreign relations rested with the US government, rather than the states. The case has been cited in other Supreme Court cases related to government authority on matters relating to immigration policy and immigration enforcement, most recently in Arizona v. United States (2012).
Immigration from China to the Western United States, particularly California, had picked up in the mid-19th century during the California Gold Rush. There was hostility to Chinese immigration from many California natives, particularly among labor unions representing white laborers. The government of California passed a number of laws to make the state unwelcoming to Chinese immigration, including the Anti-Coolie Act of 1862.
The US federal government, on the other hand, was pursuing a more friendly approach to the Chinese government. In 1868, the US and Chinese governments agreed to the Burlingame Treaty in which China was granted most favored nation status for trade, and both countries would freely permit immigration of the citizens of the other country but without any promise of a path to citizenship. Indeed, the Naturalization Act of 1870 explicitly restricted naturalization to blacks and whites, but citizenship at birth was still open to all, as would subsequently be affirmed by the Supreme Court in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1878).
In 1875, the state of California passed a statute authorizing the immigration commissioner to inspect passengers arriving in California at a cost of 75 cents per inspection, which was levied on the passenger, and giving him the authority to deny entry to passengers suspected of being lewd and debauched. Those suspected could thus be allowed entry if the captain of the ship paid a bond for them.
Similar statutes and associated court cases
- Henderson v. Mayor of City of New York, 92 U.S. 259 (1875): A lawsuit by the owners of the steamship Ethiopia from Great Britain, which had arrived at New York City, challenged statutes of New York and Louisiana that required the owner of a ship to post a bond for landing immigrants to cover indemnities if they proved to need state assistance. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and argued that the power to set immigration policy rested with the federal government and set a requirement of a bond constituted a sufficient policy with significant impact on international movement as to be the exclusive domain of the federal government.
- Commissioners of Immigration v. North German Lloyd
There were 22 women from China, including Chy Lung, among the passengers on the steamer Japan that journeyed from China to San Francisco, arriving in 1875. The immigration commissioner examined the passengers and identified Chy Lung and the other women as "lewd and debauched women." The captain of the ship had the option of paying a $500 bond per woman to allow her to land for the ostensible purpose to "indemnify all the counties, towns, and cities of California against liability for her support or maintenance for two years." The captain, however, refused to pay the bond and detained the women on board. They sued out a writ of habeas corpus, which led to them being moved into the custody of the Sheriff of the County and City of San Francisco, where they stayed, awaiting deportation upon the return of Japan, which had already left for China.
The women refused to be deported to China and appealed the decision to deport them. The California High Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute used to deny them entry and upheld their deportation. They appealed the decision in the US Supreme Court. It was the first case to appear before the US Supreme Court to involve a Chinese litigant.
Supreme Court decision
Justice Stephen Johnson Field ordered the release of all the women from the Sheriff's custody. However, Chy Lung still pressed the case in the Supreme Court and sought to test the constitutionality of the statute that had been used to imprison her and her companions.
On October 1, 1875, the Supreme Court decided unanimously in favor of Chy Lung. Its primary argument was that the federal government, rather than the states, was in charge of immigration policy and diplomatic relations with other nations and so it was not up to California to impose restrictions on Chinese immigration. The Supreme Court also noted that thise action by the government of California could jeopardize foreign relations for the US government by running afoul of treaty obligations.
The Supreme Court noted that states could make reasonable and necessary regulations concerning paupers and convicted criminals, but the regulation went far beyond that and was extortionary.
The court was also critical of the California, the Commissioner of Immigration, and the Sheriff of San Francisco for not presenting any arguments on their behalf in the case.
Around the time that the case was decided, the US government passed its first official policy significantly restricting immigration, along lines similar to the California statute that had been deemed unconstitutional. The Page Act of 1875 prohibited the entry of immigrants considered "undesirable," a category that was intended to include forced laborers and female prostitutes and applied to people of Chinese citizenship and descent. The bar on female prostitutes was the most heavily enforced aspect of the Act. The implementation mechanics involved prescreening of Chinese women in Hong Kong to ascertain their good moral character and certify that they were not prostitutes. That was very different from the operation of the California statute, which involved inspection by the immigration commissioner after the ship had landed.
In subsequent years, with the Angell Treaty of 1880 and Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), the US government would significantly restrict Chinese immigration. Later decisions on cases litigated by Chinese litigants challenging US immigration enforcement tended to be decided against the litigants and in favor of the federal government (the most important of them, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Case, was Chae Chan Ping v. United States). However, insofar as the decisions deferred to the federal government's authority, they were consistent with in Chy Lung v. Freeman.
Judge Denny Chin, a circuit court judge in the United States who is famous for sentencing Bernie Madoff, arranged for the enactment of a courtroom drama about the case. He considered the case historic because it was the first by a Chinese litigant and one in which the court ruled in favor of the litigant at a time when sentiment against Chinese and immigration was rising, with the Page Act coming into force.
The case has also been cited in arguments made by legal counsel as well as in opinions given by judges in subsequent Supreme Court decisions. Most recently, in Arizona v. United States (2012), the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional some sections of Arizona's SB 1070, a law to devote state law enforcement resources to enforce some aspects of federal immigration law. The Supreme Court cited Chy Lung v. Freeman as a precedent.
- Good moral character
- Moral turpitude
- Chae Chan Ping v. United States
- Arizona v. United States
- Page Act of 1875
- "Dates of Supreme Court Decisions and Arguments" (PDF). Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1876).
- "Chy Lung v. Freeman". Immigration To The United States. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
- "Chy Lung v. Freeman (1875)". Constitutional Rights Foundation: Educating About Immigration. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- "Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1876)". Court Listener. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012).
- Henderson v. Mayor of City of New York, 92 U.S. 259 (1875).
- "Henderson v. Mayor of the City of New York". Immigration To The United States. October 1, 1875. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- Yuan, Elizabeth (September 4, 2013). "'22 Lewd Chinese Women' and Other Courtroom Dramas. A U.S. circuit judge brings historic Asian-American trials back to life". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- John Davison Lawson (January 1, 1883). Leading Cases Simplified: A Collection of the Leading Cases in Equity and Constitutional Law. F. H. Thomas & Company., pp. 269-271