Takahashi v. Fish and Game Comm'n

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In Takahashi v. Fish & Game Comm'n, 334 U.S. 410, 418-420 (1948), the U.S. Supreme Court considered a California statute that precluded aliens who were "ineligible for citizenship under federal law" from obtaining commercial fishing licenses, even though they "met all other state requirements" and were lawful inhabitants of the State. Id. at 414.[1] In seeking to defend the statute, the State argued that it had "simply followed the Federal Government's lead" in classifying certain persons as "ineligible for citizenship." Id. at 418. The Court rejected the argument, stressing the delicate nature of the federal-state relationship in regulating aliens:

"The Federal Government has broad constitutional powers in determining what aliens shall be admitted to the United States, the period they may remain, regulation of their conduct before naturalization, and the terms and conditions of their naturalization. Under the Constitution the states are granted no such powers; they can neither add to nor take from the conditions lawfully imposed by Congress upon admission, naturalization and residence of aliens in the United States or the several states. State laws which impose discriminatory burdens upon the entrance or residence of aliens lawfully within the United States conflict with this constitutionally derived federal power to regulate immigration, and have accordingly been held invalid."

Id. at 419 (emphasis added) (citation and footnote omitted).


  1. At the time Takahashi was decided, federal law "permitted Japanese and certain other non-white racial groups to enter and reside in the country, but . . . made them ineligible for United States citizenship." Id. at 412 (footnote omitted).