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Book Chapter

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Kevin Lapp and Kathleen Kim


Cambridge University Press




This chapter is a contribution to the forthcoming volume of Rewritten Immigration Opinions to be published by Cambridge University Press. It offers commentary on the rewritten opinion in Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1875), authored by Professor Stewart Chang.

In Chy Lung, the Supreme Court struck down a patently racist and gendered California law, allowing allowed state officials to exclude Chinese women suspected of being “lewd” and “debauched” from the United States. In the decision, Justice Samuel Miller, writing for the unanimous Supreme Court, expressed grave concerns about potential abuses of power by immigration officials, and he ultimately found that the federal government—not states—had the authority to make laws governing immigration and foreign relations. The opinion, however, did little to curtail anti-Chinese bias. In the wake of the decision, Congress passed the Page Act in 1875, permitting immigration officials to exclude Chinese women on similar grounds and anti-Chinese bias informed federal immigration law for decades.

This commentary examines the legacy of the Chy Lung decision. It also engages with Professor Chang’s rewritten opinion, one that grounds its analysis in equal protection and due process, to re-envision rights discourse at the border.


Expected October 2023

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