Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha (1983)


With its decision in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the legislative veto that had enabled the U.S. Congress, in negotiation with the executive branch, to veto certain executive actions. The Court ruled that such agreements violated the doctrine of separation of powers. More specifically, it determined that one house of Congress did not have the constitutional power to veto an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decision to allow a foreign student to remain in the United States after his or her visa had expired.
The case revolved around the fate of Jagdish Chadha, born in Kenya of Indian parents and holding a British passport, who had come to the United States as a student in 1966. In 1973, he was required to “show cause why he should not be deported,” his nonimmigrant student visa having expired the previous year. At the deportation hearing that resumed in February 1974, Chadha argued that he “had resided continuously in the United States for over seven years, was of good moral character, and would suffer ‘extreme hardship’ if deported.” Neither Kenya, which had become independent of British colonial rule in 1963, nor Great Britain was willing to allow his return. Although the INS judge ruled in Chadha’s favor and approved, through the office of the U.S. Attorney General, his application for permanent residency, the House of Representatives vetoed the approval in December 1975 and the following year ordered his deportation. Department of Justice attorneys in the administrations of both Presidents Jimmy Carter (1977–81) and Ronald Reagan (1981–89) joined the INS in arguing against the constitutionality of the legislative veto. The Court held that legislative vetoes represented a subversion of the “single, finely wrought and exhaustively considered procedure” for enacting legislation. Far more than a legal case over immigrant rights and privileges, Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha represented an important moment in defining the extent of executive and legislative power in the U.S. political system.

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