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Law School Case Brief

Nishimura Ekiu v. United States - 142 U.S. 651, 12 S. Ct. 336 (1892)


An alien immigrant, prevented from landing by any such officer claiming authority to do so under an act of Congress, and thereby restrained of his liberty, is doubtless entitled to a writ of habeas corpus to ascertain whether the restraint is lawful. Congress may, if it sees fit, authorize the courts to investigate and ascertain the facts on which the right to land depends. But the final determination of those facts may be entrusted by Congress to executive officers; and in such a case, in which a statute gives a discretionary power to an officer, to be exercised by him upon his own opinion of certain facts, he is made the sole and exclusive judge of the existence of those facts, and no other tribunal, unless expressly authorized by law to do so, is at liberty to reexamine or controvert the sufficiency of the evidence on which he acted. 


Petitioner, a citizen of Japan, was refused entrance into the United States and subsequently sought a writ of habeas corpus. The inspector of immigration made a report refusing entrance of petitioner and intervened in opposition to the writ of habeas corpus. After the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of California confirmed the report by the commissioner of immigration denying petitioner's entrance into the United States and refused to review petitioner's writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner filed an appeal, which asserted that intervenor inspector did not have authority to examine petitioner's status under the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 827, 828, 1115 and also contested the constitutionality of the Act of March 3, 1891 (Act), 26 Stat. 827, 828, 1115, entrusting the supervision of the admission of aliens to inspectors acting under the authority of the Department of State and Secretary of Treasury. 


Was the Immigration Act of 1891 unconstitutional since it allowed immigration bureaucrats to make final decisions on such matters without the possibility of judicial review?




The United States Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying review of petitioner's writ of habeas corpus because the Act was valid and intervenor's decision to refuse entrance was lawful and final. The court held that under U.S. Const. art. 1, § 8, the power to forbid entrance of foreigners was vested in the national government, and it was not within the province of the judiciary to oppose the lawful measures of the legislative and executive branches of government. It is an accepted maxim of international law, that every sovereign nation has the power, as inherent in sovereignty, and essential to self-preservation, to forbid the entrance of foreigners within its dominions, or to admit them only in such cases and upon such conditions as it may see fit to prescribe.

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