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Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) v. Chadha

Citation. 462 U.S. 919, 103 S.Ct. 2764, 77 L.Ed.2d 317 (1983).
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Citation. 462 U.S. 919, 103 S.Ct. 2764, 77 L.Ed.2d 317 (1983).

Brief Fact Summary.

The House of Representatives (without the concurrence of the Senate) vetoed an executive decision to suspend Chadha’s deportation.  Chadha argued that Section 244(c)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act violated Article I’s bicameral requirement and the Presentment Clause.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A legislative veto, without the concurrence of both Houses of Congress, is unconstitutional if the exercise of  power “contain[s] matter which is properly to be regarded as legislative in its character and effect.”


After Chadha’s student visa expired, he appeared before the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to show cause why he should not be deported.  Chadha filed an application to suspend his deportation under § 244(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  To succeed, he needed to prove that deportation would “result in extreme hardship.”  Finding that there would be extreme hardship, the immigration judge ordered that his deportation be suspended.  The Act provided that, before suspending a deportation, the Attorney General must provide a statement to Congress detailing why the suspension was authorized.  Once Congress received the Attorney General’s statement, Congress, under § 244(c)(2) of the Act, could veto the Attorney General’s decision if “either the Senate or the House of Representatives passes a resolution stating . . . that it does not favor the suspension.”  Pursuant to this power, the House passed a resolution opposing the Attorney General’s decision to suspend Chadha’s deportation.


Whether § 244(c)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorized one House of Congress to veto the Attorney General’s decision, was unconstitutional.


JCHIEF JUSTICE BURGER holding:  Yes, § 244(c)(2) violated the Presentment Clause and the bicameral requirement of Article I, §§ 1, 7.


Justice White

Justice White took a more functional approach.  He reasoned that if Congress can delegate lawmaking power to the executive branch, then it can also reserve some of that power for itself.  By reserving this power, Congress could fulfill its role as the Nation’s lawmaker.  Executive agencies are not subject to the procedural safeguards of the bicameral requirement or the Presentment Clause, so legislative veto provisions should not be subject to higher scrutiny than other delegations of power.  Further, over 200 statutory provisions included legislative vetoes, and the Court’s holding meant that they would all likely be invalidated.  In Justice White’s view, the Court should only invalidate legislative veto provisions which act as a “check on an inherently executive function.”

Justice Rehnquist

By severing § 244(c)(2) but not invalidating the rest of the Act, the Court expanded the statute beyond what Congress had intended.


The Court reasoned that allowing one House of Congress to veto a decision by the executive branch violated the purposes underlying the Presentment Clause and Article I’s bicameral requirement.  Under the Presentment Clause, in authorizing the President to veto congressional acts, operates as an essential check on Congress’ power.  The bicameral requirement (grounded in Article I, §§ 1, 7), reinforced the Framer’s belief that a law should not be enacted unless it as been carefully considered and debated by the Nation’s elected branch.

However, not every action taken by either House must be subjected to the Presentment Clause and the bicameral requirement.  The proper test to determine whether Article I’s procedural requirements apply is whether the exercise of power “contain[s] matter which is . . . legislative in its character and effect.”  Here, § 244(c)(2) was legislative in its character and effect because it altered the Attorney General and Chadha’s legal rights and duties.  The Court acknowledged that the legislative veto is a “convenient shortcut,” but efficiency does not remove a law from the Constitution’s procedural safeguards.

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