Takahashi v. Fish & Game Commission, 334 U.S. 410; 68 S. Ct. 1138; 92 L. Ed. 1478 (1948)

Facts—Takahashi, a Japanese alien ineligible for citizenship, brought suit for mandamus in the California Superior Court to compel issuance to him of a commercial fishing license. The commission denied him the license on the ground that a California law forbade giving a commercial fishing license to a person ineligible for citizenship. Holding this provision violative of the equal protection clause of the federal Constitution, the Superior Court granted the petition. The California Supreme Court reversed. The Fish and Game Commission contended that the California law was a conservation measure and that the fishing waters belonged to the state. Takahashi contended that the law was the outgrowth of racial antagonism.

Question—Can California use the federally created racial ineligibility to citizenship as a basis to bar Takahashi from a commercial fishing license?


ReasonsJ. Black (7–2). The Constitution grants the power to regulate immigration and naturalization to the federal government. Furthermore, the Fourteenth Amendment embodies the “general policy that all persons lawfully in this country shall abide ‘in any state’ on an equality of legal privilege with all citizens under non-discriminatory laws.”

Whatever special public interests there may be, due to ownership of fish by California citizens, are inadequate to justify this legislation. The barring of aliens from landownership rests solely upon the power of the states to control the devolution and ownership of land within their borders, but cannot be extended to cover this case.
J. Reed’s dissent emphasized the view that California’s action was a legitimate attempt by a sovereign state to preserve its resources.

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