The Eclipse of Judicial Justice
The exclusion laws of the 1880s significantly curtailed Chinese immigration, but they did not prevent many Chinese from entering. One senator, commenting on the weakness of the exclusion policy, lamented in 1892: "There are thousands of Chinese eager to circumvent this law and eager to come to the United States where the rewards of labor are so great."1 Simply enacting restrictive laws did not guarantee exclusion of Chinese from the United States. Policy makers began to focus on effective enforcement as the key to ensuring that America's "gateways [would] be double locked and barred against the Mongolian."2 A decision was made to remove the federal courts' jurisdiction to hear Chinese cases after increasingly stringent laws failed to keep them out.
Chinese success in the federal courts posed a primary, though not the only, obstacle to a stringent enforcement of the exclusion laws. Exclusionists and policy makers came to understand that the forum -- a court or an administrative agency -- affected enforcement of the laws. Experience taught them that courts, confined by certain legal practices and traditions, could not be strong gatekeepers. Administrative officials, however, had the distinct advantage of being free from traditional legal constraints and of being more accountable to public opinion. Thus policy makers and government officials embarked upon a campaign to remove jurisdiction from the courts and bolster the power of the administrators to enforce the Chinese exclusion policy.
Congress had made several attempts to limit judicial power in the habeas corpus cases since the passage of the first exclusion act in 1882. The acts of 1884 and 1888 imposed more specific evidentiary requirements on Chinese applicants in an attempt to close loopholes opened by federal court decisions. The act of September 13, 1888, made the decisions of the collector final, but as discussed in Chapter 1, that provision never took effect.3 Finally, the Geary Act placed such strict limitations on the discretion of