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INS v. Chadha

Citation. 462 U.S. 919 (1983)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Chadha, an Indian born in Kenya who overstayed his student visa in the U.S challenged the constitutionality of the one-House veto provision from the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The fact that a law is efficient and useful in facilitating functions of government does not itself save it if it is contrary to the Constitution.


The Immigration and Nationality Act authorized one House of Congress to invalidate the decision of the Executive Branch to suspend deportation of a deportable alien if the alien met certain conditions and would suffer extreme hardship if deported. The Act also required the Attorney General to report to Congress on each such suspension. The respondent, Chadha, was an Indian born in Kenya and overstayed his student visa and was thus deportable. The Attorney General suspended his deportation pursuant to the Act. The House of Representatives, however, passed a resolution to invalidate the suspension without submitting the resolution to the Senate or the President.


Is the Act that authorizes one House of Congress to invalidate the decision of the Executive Branch to suspend deportation of a deportable alien constitutional?


No, the requirement that all legislation be presented to the President before becoming law was uniformly accepted by the Framers. The Framers also reemphasized that legislation should not be enacted unless it has been considered by the Nation’s elected officials that include both Houses. Such bicameral requirement, in the Framers‘ mind, would serve essential constitutional functions.


Justice White

The legislative veto or one House veto has become a central means by which Congress secures the accountability of executive and independent agencies. Without the legislative veto, Congress must either refrain from delegating the necessary authority, leaving itself with a hopeless task of writing laws with the requisite detail to cove endless special circumstances across the entire policy landscape or to abdicate its lawmaking function to the executive branch and independent agencies. Neither reflects what the Framers had in mind when drafting the Constitution.


Justice Powell

The Framers worried that trial by a legislature lacks the safeguards necessary to prevent the abuse of power. What the House did in this case was akin to a trial because it did not enact a general rule but made its own determination that the individuals did not comply with certain statutory criteria. The House, thus, undertook the decision that has traditionally been left to other branches.


The President’s participation in the legislative process would protect the Executive Branch from Congress and to protect the citizens from improvident laws. The division of the Congress into two distinctive bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives, ensures that the legislative power would be exercised only after opportunity for full study and debate in separate settings. Neither the House nor the Senate could effectively require the Attorney General to deport an alien once the Attorney General, in the exercise of legislatively delegated authority, had determined that the alien should remain in the U.S. While requiring the above imposes burdens on governmental processes that often seem inefficient, the Framers intentionally placed such restraints to prevent arbitrary governmental acts from going unchecked.

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