Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919; 103 S. Ct. 2764; 77 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1983)

Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919; 103 S. Ct. 2764; 77 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1983)

Facts—Chadha, an alien, had been lawfully admitted to the United States. His visa expired and the INS—under the Immigration and Nationality Act that authorized either house of Congress by resolution to invalidate the decision of the executive branch—ordered his expulsion, even though the attorney general, according to law, lifted the suspension. After the House vetoed the attorney general’s decision, Chadha again appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which now agreed with Chadha. The Court of Appeals said that the House was exceeding constitutional authority in ordering Chadha’s deportation and violating the doctrine of separation of powers.

Question—Is a one-house congressional veto constitutional?


ReasonsC.J. Burger (7–2). “We reject the view that Chadha lacks standing inasmuch that if the veto provision violates the Constitution and is severable, the deportation order will be cancelled. Congress suggests alternative relief—other avenues that might be open but “at most these other avenues are speculative.” Congress’s authority over aliens is not contested. What is “challenged . . . is whether Congress has chosen a constitutionally permissible means of implementing that power.” Congress has plenary authority “in all cases in which it has substantive legislative jurisdiction . . . so long as the exercise of that authority does not offend some other constitutional restriction.” Eleven presidents from Mr. Wilson through Mr. Reagan “have gone on record at some point to challenge congressional vetoes as unconstitutional.”

The efficiency, convenience, or usefulness of a law or procedure will not save it if it offends the Constitution. Since the Constitutional Convention (1787), the operative mandate is that legislation must, before becoming law, go first to the president and that a presidential veto could not be overridden except by both houses of Congress (the principle of bicameralism). This power to veto legislation “was based on the profound conviction . . . that the powers conferred on Congress were . . . to be most carefully circumscribed.” Except for a narrow exception, not germane here, the presentment clauses serve the important purpose of assuring that a “national perspective is grafted on the legislative process.” The Court of Appeals is affirmed.

J. Powell, concurring, said that the decision should be based on the narrower ground that Congress was unconstitutionally trying to assume a judicial function.

J. White, dissenting, argued that the legislative veto was an important invention that should not be invalidated on the basis of a narrow view of separation of powers.

J. Rehnquist and J. White believed that the legislative veto was so integral to the law in question that invalidation of the former also required invalidation of the latter.

NoteChadha is a major separation of powers case. Before attacking a thorny issue involving Congress, the Court—as it did in Baker v. Carr (1962) and Powell v. McCormack (1969)—quickly pointed out that this is a judicial and not a “political question.”

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