INS v. Chadha
462 U.S. 919 (1983)

  • In one section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Congress authorized either Chamber of Congress to invalidate and suspend deportation rulings of the US Attorney General and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
    • Congress decided that they had the authority to exercise a legislative veto over Executive Branch decisions.
    • It’s important to note here that it allowed either side, House or Senate to make a ruling. It didn’t require the two to agree.
    • In the past, Congress considered private bills, in which a single member of Congress would cut a deal with a private individual for some specific favor (like granting citizenship), and it was passed with a wink and a nod. Private bills were so susceptible to corruption that the power was taken away from Congress and given to the Executive Branch.
  • Chadha was a foreign exchange student had stayed in the US past his visa deadline and was ordered to leave the country. The House of Representatives suspended the immigration judge’s deportation ruling. The INS sued for an injunction.
    • The INS argued that the Immigration and Nationality Act violated separation of powers, since it authorized the Legislative Branch to invalidate decisions of the Executive Branch.
    • Chadha had no other country to go to. He was born in Kenya of Indian heritage and neither Kenya nor India would take him back.
    • Congress chose to rule on a few immigrations cases per year, pretty much at random, just in order to maintain the principle that Congress can overrule a Justice Department decision.
  • The US Supreme Court overturned the Immigration and Nationality Act.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the particular section of the Immigration and Nationality Act was unconstitutional.
      • It violated Article I, Section 7, clause 3.
      • The idea of a legislative veto violated the principles of bicameralism and the Presentment Clause.
        • The Presentment Clause says that bills must be passed in identical form in both the House and Senate and signed by the President. It also mentions that a 2/3 majority overrides a Presidential veto.
        • Bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative bodies, (House and Senate).
    • The Court felt that the House had taken actions that “had the purpose of altering the legal rights, duties, and relations of persons, including the Attorney General and Chadha.” That is making a law. And under the Constitution’s Presentment Clause, a single chamber of Congress can’t make laws by itself.
      • Of course, following that argument, pretty much every regulation made by an Executive Branch agency could be construed as making a law. It could be argued that all of those regulations are unconstitutional too!
      • Justice White, in a dissent, argued that the Court has allowed Congress to delegate authority to Executive Agencies, which don’t follow the rules of bicameralism or presentation; therefore, lawmaking does not always require them. Why should this case be any different?
    • In a concurrence, it was argued that Congress was exceeding its authority simply on the basis that it violated Chadha’s due process. It’s almost like a Bill of Attainder, which is clearly unconstitutional.
      • Article I, Section 9, clause 3 prohibits Congress from undertaking legislative trials that lack the safeguards and accountability of judicial trials.