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

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Fong Yue Ting v. United States

Nos. 1345, 1346, 1347

Argued May 10, 1893

Decided May 15, 1893

149 U.S. 698

Syllabus

The right to exclude or to expel aliens, or any class of aliens, absolutely or upon certain conditions, in war or in peace, is an inherent and inalienable right of every sovereign nation.

In the United States, the power to exclude or to expel aliens is vested in the political departments of the National Government, and is to be regulated by treaty or by act of Congress, and to be executed by the executive authority according to the regulations so established, except so far as the Judicial Department is authorized by treaty or by statute, or is required by the Constitution, to intervene.

The power of Congress to expel, like the power to exclude, aliens, or any specified class of aliens, from the country, may be exercised entirely through executive officers; or Congress may call in the aid of the Judiciary to ascertain any contested facts on which an alien's right to remain in the country has been made by Congress to depend.

Congress has the right to provide a system of registration and identification of any class of aliens within the country, and to take all proper means to carry out that system.

The provisions of an act of Congress, passed in the exercise of its constitutional authority, must, if clear and explicit, be upheld by the courts, even in contravention of stipulations in an earlier treaty.

Section 6 of the act of May 5, 1892, c. 60, requiring all Chinese laborers

Page 149 U. S. 699

within the United States at the time of its passage, "and who are entitled to remain in the United States," to apply within a year to a collector of internal revenue for a certificate of residence, and providing that anyone who does not do so, or is afterwards found in the United States without such a certificate, "shall be deemed and adjudged to be unlawfully in the United States," and may be arrested by any officer of the customs, or collector of internal revenue, or marshal, or deputy of either, and taken before a United States judge, who shall order him to be deported from the United States to his own country unless he shall clearly establish to the satisfaction of the judge that, by reason of accident, sickness, or other unavoidable cause, he was unable to procure his certificate, and "by at least one credible white witness" that he was a resident of the United States at the time of the passage of the act, is constitutional and valid.

These were three writs of habeas corpus, granted by the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York, upon petitions of Chinese laborers arrested and held by the marshal of the district for not having certificates of residence, under section 6 of the act of May 5, 1892, c. 60, which is copied in the margin.{1}

Page 149 U. S. 700

The rules and regulations made and promulgated by the Secretary of the Treasury under section 7 of that act prescribe

Page 149 U. S. 701

forms for applications for certificates of residence, for affidavits in support thereof, and for the certificates themselves; contain the provisions copied in the margin;{2} and also provide

Page 149 U. S. 702

for recording duplicates of the certificates in the office of the collector of internal revenue.

The first petition alleged that the petitioner was a person of the Chinese race, born in China, and not a naturalized citizen of the United States; that, in or before 1879, he came to the United States, with the intention of remaining and taking up his residence therein, and with no definite intention of returning to China, and had ever since been a permanent resident of the United States, and for more than a year last past had resided in the City, County, and State of New York, and within the second district for the collection of internal revenue in that State; that he had not, since the passage of the act of 1892, applied to the collector of internal revenue of that district for a certificate of residence, as required by section 6, and was, and always had been, without such certificate of residence; and that he was arrested by the marshal, claiming authority to do so under that section, without any writ or warrant. The return of the marshal stated that the petitioner was found by him within the jurisdiction of the United States and in the Southern District of New York, without the certificate of residence required by that section; that he had, therefore, arrested him, with the purpose and intention of taking him before a United States judge within that district; and that the petitioner admitted to the marshal, in reply to questions put through an interpreter, that he was a Chinese laborer, and was without the required certificate of residence.

The second petition contained similar allegations, and further alleged that the petitioner was taken by the marshal before the district judge for the Southern District of New York, and that

"the said United States judge, without any hearing of any kind, thereupon ordered that your petitioner be

Page 149 U. S. 703

remanded to the custody of the marshal in and for the Southern District of New York, and deported forthwith from the United States, as is provided in said act of May 5, 1892, all of which more fully appears by said order, a copy of which is hereto annexed and made a part hereof,"

and which is copied in the margin;{3} and that he was detained by virtue of the marshal's claim of authority and the judge's order. The marshal returned that he held the petitioner under that order.

In the third case, the petition alleged, and the judge's order showed, the following state of facts: on April 11, 1893, the petitioner applied to the collector of internal revenue for a certificate of residence. The collector refused to give him a certificate, on the ground that the witnesses whom he produced to prove that he was entitled to the certificate were persons of the Chinese race, and not credible witnesses, and required of him to produce a witness other than a Chinaman to prove that he was entitled to the certificate, which he was unable to do because there was no person other than one of

Page 149 U. S. 704

the Chinese race who knew and could truthfully swear that he was lawfully within the United States on May 5, 1892, and then entitled to remain therein; and, because of such unavoidable cause, he was unable to produce a certificate of residence, and was now without one. The petitioner was arrested by the marshal, and taken before the judge, and clearly established to the satisfaction of the judge that he was unable to procure a certificate of residence by reason of the unavoidable cause aforesaid; and also established to the judge's satisfaction, by the testimony of a Chinese resident of New York, that the petitioner was a resident of the United States at the time of the passage of the act; but, having failed to establish this fact clearly to the satisfaction of the court by at least one credible white witness, as required by the statute, the judge ordered the petitioner to be remanded to the custody of the marshal, and to be deported from the United States, as provided in the act.

Each petition alleged that the petitioner was arrested and detained without due process of law, and that section 6 of the act of May 5, 1892, was unconstitutional and void.

In each case, the Circuit Court, after a hearing upon the writ of habeas corpus and the return of the marshal, dismissed the writ of habeas corpus, and allowed an appeal of the petitioner to this Court, and admitted him to bail pending the appeal. All the proceedings, from the arrest to the appeal, took place on May 6th.

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