INS v. Chadha/Dissent Rehnquist

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JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom JUSTICE WHITE joins, dissenting.

A severability clause creates a presumption that Congress intended the valid portion of the statute to remain in force when one part is found to be invalid. Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238"]298 U.S. 238, 312 (1936); Champlin Refining Co. v. Corporation Comm'n of Oklahoma, 286 U.S. 210, 235 [p1014] (1932). A severability clause does not, however, conclusively resolve the issue. "[T]he determination, in the end, is reached by" asking "[w]hat was the intent of the lawmakers," Carter, supra, at 312, and "will rarely turn on the presence or absence of such a clause." 298 U.S. 238, 312 (1936); Champlin Refining Co. v. Corporation Comm'n of Oklahoma, 286 U.S. 210, 235 [p1014] (1932). A severability clause does not, however, conclusively resolve the issue. "[T]he determination, in the end, is reached by" asking "[w]hat was the intent of the lawmakers," Carter, supra, at 312, and "will rarely turn on the presence or absence of such a clause." United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570, 585, n. 27 (1968). Because I believe that Congress did not intend the one-House veto provision of § 244(c)(2) to be severable, I dissent.

Section 244(c)(2) is an exception to the general rule that an alien's deportation shall be suspended when the Attorney General finds that statutory criteria are met. It is severable only if Congress would have intended to permit the Attorney General to suspend deportations without it. This Court has held several times over the years that exceptions such as this are not severable because,

by rejecting the exceptions intended by the legislature . . . the statute is made to enact what confessedly the legislature never meant. It confers upon the statute a positive operation beyond the legislative intent, and beyond what anyone can say it would have enacted in view of the illegality of the exceptions.

Spraigue v. Thompson, 118 U.S. 90, 95 (1886).

By severing § 244(c)(2), the Court permits suspension of deportation in a class of cases where Congress never stated that suspension was appropriate. I do not believe we should expand the statute in this way without some clear indication that Congress intended such an expansion. As the Court said in Davis v. Wallace, 257 U.S. 478, 484-485 (1922):

Where an excepting provision in a statute is found unconstitutional, courts very generally hold that this does not work an enlargement of the scope or operation of other provisions with which that provision was enacted and which was intended to qualify or restrain. The reasoning on which the decisions proceed is illustrated in State ex rel. McNeal v. Dombaugh, 20 Ohio St. 167, 174. In dealing with a contention that a statute [p1015] containing an unconstitutional provision should be construed as if the remainder stood alone, the court there said:

This would be to mutilate the section and garble its meaning. The legislative intention must not be confounded with their power to carry that intention into effect. To refuse to give force and vitality to a provision of law is one thing, and to refuse to read it is a very different thing. It is by a mere figure of speech that we say an unconstitutional provision of a statute is "stricken out." For all the purposes of construction, it is to be regarded as part of the act. The meaning of the legislature must be gathered from all that they have said, as well from that which is ineffectual for want of power, as from that which is authorized by law.

Here the excepting provision was in the statute when it was enacted, and there can be no doubt that the legislature intended that the meaning of the other provisions should be taken as restricted accordingly. Only with that restricted meaning did they receive the legislative sanction which was essential to make them part of the statute law of the State; and no other authority is competent to give them a larger application.

See also Frost v. Corporation Comm'n of Oklahoma, 278 U.S. 515, 525 (1929).

The Court finds that the legislative history of § 244 shows that Congress intended § 244(C)(2) to be severable because Congress wanted to relieve itself of the burden of private bills. But the history elucidated by the Court shows that Congress was unwilling to give the Executive Branch permission to suspend deportation on its own. Over the years, Congress consistently rejected requests from the Executive for complete discretion in this area. Congress always insisted on retaining ultimate control, whether by concurrent resolution, as in the 1948 Act, or by one-House veto, as in the present Act. Congress has never indicated that it would be willing to permit suspensions of deportation unless it could retain some sort of veto. [p1016]

It is doubtless true that Congress has the power to provide for suspensions of deportation without a one-House veto. But the Court has failed to identify any evidence that Congress intended to exercise that power. On the contrary, Congress' continued insistence on retaining control of the suspension process indicates that it has never been disposed to give the Executive Branch a free hand. By severing § 244(c)(2), the Court has "‘confounded'" Congress' "‘intention'" to permit suspensions of deportation "‘with their power to carry that intention into effect.'" Davis, supra, at 484, quoting State ex rel. McNeal v. Dombaugh, 20 Ohio St. 167, 174 (1870).

Because I do not believe that § 244(c)(2) is severable, I would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.