Systemic Racism in the U.S. Immigration Laws

Kevin R. Johnson
Date of Publication: 
June, 2022
Source Organization: 

Murderous violence, economic boycotts, and anti-Chinese political agitation in western states during the 1880s were manifestations of concerted efforts of white citizens to purge Chinese residents from the United States. These campaigns culminated in the passage of the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Act commenced a long period of racist immigration policies that included bars on immigration from China and later all of Asia, as well as the discriminatory national origins quota system of 1924. While flagrant racial discrimination in immigration laws ended in 1965, the Supreme Court ruling from 1889 that upheld the Chinese Exclusion Act is still the law in the U.S. In the Chinese Exclusion case, the Supreme Court determined that Congress had “plenary power,” or absolute authority, over immigration matters, and that courts could not review the constitutionality of immigration laws. This report analyzes the roots and consequences of systemic racism in U.S. immigration policy and highlights that lack of ordinary constitutional review that enabled President Trump to implement controversial and restrictive policies such as the Muslim ban and migrant family separations. As the nation confronts systemic racism in the criminal justice system, it must also, according to the author of this report, reconsider the plenary power doctrine as the first step to the elimination of systemic racism in immigration law. (Jasmina Popaja for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Johnson, K., (2022). Systemic Racism in the U.S. Immigration Laws (Indiana Law Journal – Volume 97, Issue 4.). Social Science Research Network.