163 U.S. 228 (1896), 204, Wong Wing v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 204.
Citation:163 U.S. 228, 16 S.Ct. 977, 41 L.Ed. 140
Party Name:WONG WING et al. v. UNITED STATES.
Case Date:May 18, 1896
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 228

163 U.S. 228 (1896)

16 S.Ct. 977, 41 L.Ed. 140

WONG WING et al.



No. 204.

United States Supreme Court.

May 18, 1896

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Michigan.

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[16 S.Ct. 978] On July 15, 1892, Wong Wing, Lee Poy, Lee You Tong, and Chan Wah Dong were brought before John Graves, a commissioner of the circuit court of the United States for the Eastern district of Michigan, by virtue of a warrant issued upon the complaint of T. E. McDonough, deputy collector of customs, upon a charge of being Chinese persons unlawfully within the United States, and not entitled to remain within the same. The commissioner found that said persons were unlawfully within the United States, and not entitled to remain within the same, and he adjudged that they be imprisoned at hard labor at and in the Detroit House of Correction for a period of 60 days from and including the day of commitment, and that, at the expiration of said time, they be removed from the United States to China.

A writ of habeas corpus was sued out of the circuit court of the United States, directed to Joseph Nicholson, superintendent of the Detroit House of Correction, alleging that said persons were by him unlawfully detained. The superintendent made a return setting up the action of the commissioner; and, after argument, the writ of habeas corpus was discharged, and the prisoners were remanded to the custody of said Nicholson, to serve out their original sentence. From this decision an appeal was taken to this court.


F. H. Canfield, for appellants.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Dickinson, for the United States.


Mr. Justice SHIRAS, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.

By the thirteenth section of the act of September 13, 1888 (25 Stat. 479), it was provided as follows: 'That any Chinese person, or person of Chinese descent, found unlawfully in the United States or its territories, may be arrested upon a warrant issued upon a complaint under oath, filed by any party on behalf of the United States, by any justice,

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judge, or commissioner of any United States court, returnable before any justice, judge, or commissioner of a United States court, or before any United States court, and when convicted, upon a hearing, and found and adjudged to be one not lawfully entitled to be or remain in the United States, such person shall be removed from the United States to the country whence he came.'

The first section of the act of October 1, 1888 (25 Stat. 504), was in the following terms: 'That from and after the passage of this act it shall be unlawful for any Chinese laborer who shall at any time heretofore have been, or who may now or hereafter be, a resident within the United States, and who shall have departed, or shall depart therefrom, and shall not have returned before the passage of this act, to return to, or remain in, the United States.'

The validity of these acts was assailed, because they were alleged to be in conflict with existing treaties between the United States and China, and because to deport a Chinaman who had, under previous laws, a right to return to the United States, was a punishment which could not be inflicted except by judicial sentence.

But these contentions were overruled and the validity of the legislation sustained by this court, in the case of Chase Chan Ping v. U.S. 130 U.S. 581, 9 Sup. Ct. 623. In this case it was held, in an elaborate decision by Mr. Justice Field, that the act excluding Chinese laborers from the United States was a constitutional exercise of legislative power; that, so far as it conflicted with existing treaties between the United States and China, it operated to that extent to abrogate them as part of the municipal law of the United States; and that a right conferred upon a Chinese laborer, by a certificate issued in pursuance of previous laws, to return to the United States, could be taken away by a subsequent act of congress.

On May 5, 1892, by an act of that date (27 Stat. 25), congress enacted that all laws then in force prohibiting and regulating the coming into this country of Chinese persons and persons of Chinese descent should be continued in force for a period of 10 years from the passage of the act. The sixth

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section of the act was, in part, in the following terms: 'And it shall be the duty of all Chinese laborers within the limits of the United States, at the time of the passage of this act, and who are entitled to remain in the United States, to apply to the collector of internal revenue of their respective districts, within one year after the passage of this act, for a certificate of residence, and any Chinese laborer, within the limits of the United States, who shall neglect, fail or refuse to comply with the provisions of this act, or who, after one year from the passage hereof, shall be found within the jurisdiction of the United States without such certificate of residence, shall be deemed and adjudged to be unlawfully within the United States, and may be arrested by any United States customs official, collector of internal revenue or his deputies, United States marshal or his deputies, and taken before a United States judge, whose duty it shall be to order that he be deported from the United States as hereinbefore provided.'

As against the validity of this section, it was contended that, whatever might be true as to the power of the United States to exclude aliens, yet there was no power to banish such aliens who had been permitted to become residents and that, if such power did exist, it was in the nature of a punishment, and could only be lawfully exercised after a judicial trial.

But this court held, in the case of Fong Yue Ting v. U.S. 149 U.S. 698, 13 Sup. Ct. 1016, that the right to exclude or to expel aliens, or any class of aliens, absolutely or [16 S.Ct. 979] upon certain conditions, in war or in peace, is an inherent and inalienable right of every sovereign and independent nation; that the power of congress to expel, like the power to exclude, aliens or any class of aliens from the country, may be exercised entirely through executive officers; and that the said sixth section of the act of May 5, 1892, was constitutional and valid.

The act of August 18, 1894 (28 Stat. 390), made provision for expenses of returning to China all Chinese persons found to be unlawfully in the United States, including the cost of imprisonment and actual expense of conveyance of Chinese persons to the frontier or seaboard for deportation,

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and contained the following enactment: 'In every case where an alien is excluded from admission into the United States under any law or treaty now existing or hereafter made, the decision of the appropriate immigration or customs officers, if adverse to the admission of such alien, shall be final unless reversed on appeal to the secretary of the treasury.'

One Lem Moon Sing, a person of the Chinese race, who claimed to have had a permanent domicile in the United States, and to have carried on business therein as a merchant before the passage of the act of August 18, 1894, and to have gone on a temporary visit to his native land, with the intention of returning and continuing his residence in the United States (during which temporary absence the said act was passed), was, on his return, prevented from landing, and was confined and restrained of his liberty by the collector of the port of San Francisco. He filed in the district court of the United States for the...

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