Not surprisingly, the United States and a number of amici in Arizona v. United States rely on the 1876 decision of Chy Lung v. Freeman, and it goes unmentioned in Arizona's brief. The Chy Lung Court unanimously invalidated California's efforts to suppress Chinese immigration, concluding that immigration was an area of exclusive federal authority: “the responsibility for the character of those regulations, and for the manner of their execution, belongs solely to the national government. If it be otherwise, a single State can, at her pleasure, embroil us in disastrous quarrels with other nations.” A companion case, Henderson v. New York, invalidated a similar New York law allegedly justified by the police power, explaining that "no definition of [the police power], and no urgency for its use, can authorize a State to exercise it in regard to a subject-matter which has been confided exclusively to the discretion of Congress by the Constitution."Continue reading here.
I wish one of the amici had mentioned that Congress agreed.
Meanwhile, historian Paul Kramer has a narrative account of Chy Lung in Slate. And Jack Chin has a roundup of recent academic commentary on U.S. v. Arizona. There is more on SCOTUSblog.