The plenary power doctrine has been a central, integral feature of the Supreme Court’s immigration case law (the entire field of law, the study of law, and legal issues) since the late 19th century. The doctrine gives the legislature and the executive broad powers to regulate immigration. The doctrine also states that courts should generally not intervene in immigration cases.
The Plenary Power Doctrine empowers Congress and the President to free politics from judicial review. It is based on the assumption that everything related to immigration is a question of national sovereignty, linked to a nation’s right to define its own borders.
The plenary power doctrine was first formulated during the Chinese exclusion case of 1889. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld a law that prohibited Chinese workers from entering the United States. The constitutional law in question was not subjected to any substantive analysis.
This doctrine protects a variety of immigration provisions from constitutional control. In Matthews v. Diaz (1976) “Congress, in the exercise of its extensive naturalization and immigration powers, regularly establishes rules that would be unacceptable to citizens.”
Fortunately, the teaching has not remained unchallenged. It has been questioned by a wide range of people over the years, including academics, other judges and advocates of immigrant rights. Despite their efforts, the Supreme Court has not officially rejected the doctrine.
In disputes before the Supreme Court and other district courts, government officials often rely on the doctrine to defend or argue for a law that is constitutionally challenged.
Congress is not only seen as a proxy in the area of immigration, but generally also as a proxy in the area of trade and its regulation. While no one has officially recognized the limits of Congress’ powers on immigration, there have been successful challenges for the idea when it comes to trade. As a result, Congress’s powers over trade are no longer complete and cover all matters.
Due to the complexity of immigration laws, it is rarely a good idea for people to try to defend their case themselves. Immigrants who are exposed to criminal charges are the most urgently represented.