INS v. Chadha

Following is the case brief for INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983)

Case Summary of INS v. Chadha:

  • Respondent Chadha overstayed his visa in the U.S.
  • Although he was deportable, the Attorney General allowed certain deportable immigrants to remain in the U.S., including Chadha.
  • A federal immigration law, however, gave either chamber of Congress the ability to veto an Attorney General decision.  The House exercised that veto, and ordered Chadha deported.
  • Chadha sought review of the deportation order in federal court, arguing that the federal immigration law’s one-house veto mechanism was unconstitutional.  The INS agreed with Chadha’s position.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately held that the one-house veto mechanism was unconstitutional.  It reasoned that such decisions must go through the bicameral legislative process that is outlined in the Constitution.

INS v. Chadha Case Brief

Statement of the Facts:

Section 244(c)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provided that either chamber of Congress could veto an Attorney General’s decision to allow a deportable immigrant to remain in the U.S.

Respondent Chadha had overstayed his visa in the U.S., and he applied for suspension of his deportation.  After a hearing, the INS permitted Chadha to remain in the U.S.

The House of Representatives then passed a resolution vetoing the INS’s decision, and it ordered Chadha (and immigrants in his same position) to be deported.  Chadha thereafter moved the INS to find that Section 244(c)(2) of the Act was unconstitutional.

Procedural History:

  • The INS Immigration Judge ordered the Chadha’s deportation pursuant to the House’s resolution.
  • The INS’s Board of Immigration appeals dismissed Chadha’s appeal, holding that it did not have the authority to find an Act of Congress unconstitutional.
  • Chadha appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the one-house veto provision was unconstitutional. The INS joined Chadha in his argument.
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the one-house veto provision violated separation of powers and was therefore unconstitutional.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue and Holding:

Did the one-house veto provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act violate the doctrine of separation of powers in the Constitution?  Yes.


The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

The one-house veto in the Immigration and Nationality Act is a legislative act and, as such, it must go through the procedural requirements of bicameral passage and presentment to the president under Art. I, § 7 of the Constitution.


The Court’s opinion began by addressing a number of arguments with regard to the Court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.

  1. Jurisdiction. The Court has jurisdiction to hear the case because the INS is a “party” appealing from a judgment of a U.S. court, here the Ninth Circuit.
  2. Severability. The one-house veto provision in Section 244(c)(2) of the Act is severable from the rest of the Act, based on a valid severability provision in the Act.
  3. Standing. Chadha has standing to challenge the one-house veto’s constitutionality because he has suffered a real injury by being ordered deported from the country.
  4. Constitutional Question. Simply because Chadha may have statutory relief elsewhere does not mean that the Court is precluded from deciding a constitutional question.
  5. Appellate Jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had jurisdiction based on another provision in the Act that gave it jurisdiction over final orders of deportation.
  6. Case or Controversy. There is a true case or controversy before the Court.  As soon as the House intervened, there was adverseness.  Further, there was Art. III adverseness because the INS ordered Chadha deported consistent with the House’s resolution.  The fact that the INS agreed with Chadha on constitutionality does not change the existence of the controversy.
  7. Political Question. The case is not a non-justiciable political question.  Political implications from a ruling does not trigger the “political question doctrine.”

Getting to the heart of the case, the Court reasoned that the one-house veto provision was unconstitutional because it violates separation of powers.  Specifically, the process of every bill going through both chambers of Congress and being presented to the president is an integral part of the constitutional design for the separation of powers.

In this case, deciding that Chadha should be deported is essentially a legislative action, that must follow the Constitution’s legislative process.  Further, any time the Framers authorized one chamber of Congress to act alone, outside the legislative process, it was narrowly and precisely defined.

Concurring and Dissenting Opinions:

Concurring Opinion (Powell):

The Court’s decision paints with too broad a brush.  It effectively invalidates every use of the legislative veto.  The case here could be resolved on narrower grounds.  That narrower ground could be that Congress’s judgment on the criteria for deportability cannot assume a judicial function, as that would violate the separation of powers.

Dissenting Opinion (White):

The breadth of the Court’s decision voids many other statutes that allow for a legislative veto. Congress must now either write far more specific laws or abdicate its lawmaking power to the administrative agencies.  The one-house veto in this case is a check on executive power and is therefore valid.

Dissenting Opinion (Rehnquist):

The one-house veto provision is not severable.  By severing the one-house veto, the Court has now allowed suspension of deportation in a class of cases in which Congress never stated that suspension was appropriate.  Because that is an expansion of the Act that Congress did not intend, the Ninth Circuit’s decision should be reversed.


INS v. Chadha seemed to do away with the use of the legislative veto as unconstitutional.  However, Congress continued to pass legislation with legislative veto provisions after Chadha.  Various presidents have signed such bills while disclaiming the legislative veto provision in their signing statements.

Student Resources:

Read the Court’s Full Opinion

Listen to the Oral Arguments