Chang Chan v. Nagle

The Case: U.S. Supreme Court ruling on immigration law

Date: Decided on May 25, 1925

Significance: The Chang Chan ruling upheld the application of a law disallowing the entrance of some foreign wives of U.S. citizens.

The Immigration Act of 1924 contained a provision that excluded foreign wives of U.S. citizens from entering the country if they were members of a race ineligible for naturalization. Chang Chan, as well as three other native-born U.S. citizens, had married Chinese women in China prior to the law’s enactment. When the four young women arrived in San Francisco on July 24, 1924, they were denied permanent admission. The Supreme Court unanimously held that the women did not have the right to enter the country. In the majority opinion, Justice James Clark McReynolds examined the few exceptions in the law and concluded that none of them applied to this particular case. He wrote that the “hardships of a case, and suppositions of what is rational and consistent in immigration policy, cannot justify a court in departing from the plain terms of an immigration act.”

Thomas Tandy Lewis

Further Reading

  • Hyung-chan, Kim, ed. Asian Americans and the Supreme Court: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992. 
  • LeMay, Michael, and Elliott Robert Barkan, eds. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. 

See also: Asian Indian immigrants; Cheung Sum Shee v. Nagle; Chinese immigrants; Congress, U.S.; Immigration Act of 1924; San Francisco; Supreme Court, U.S.

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