Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Augustine-Adam on Mexico's Chinese Labor Law Cases

Kif Augustine-Adams, Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School, has posted, in Spanish, By a Single Vote: Quong Fat and Chinese Amparo Cases before the Mexican Supreme Court, 1917 to 1932.  Here is the English abstract:
In 1919, Quong Fat and eighteen other plaintiffs of Chinese extraction sought amparo, judicial relief, in Mexico’s federal court system against the fines and imprisonment they suffered for failing to comply with Sonora’s Labor Law. Sonora’s new law required all businesses to employ at least 80% Mexicans. The decision that the Supreme Court of Mexico rendered in the case is one of the first in a series of petitions that Chinese brought before the Supreme Court of Mexico in the 15-year period from 1917, when Mexico inaugurated a new Constitution after the bitter fratricide of revolution, to 1932, when Sonora violently expelled Chinese from the state. This project focuses specifically on amparo petitions brought by Chinese living in Sonora because that state explicitly enacted into law the significant social discrimination that Chinese faced throughout Mexico, as they did around the world, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Application of Sonora’s laws by municipal presidents, police, state court judges, civil registrars and other government officials imposed significant discrimination on Chinese. Even where Sonoran legislation was racially neutral on its face, as was the 1919 Labor Law, the discriminatory impact of Sonora’s laws fell heavily on the Chinese population.

Moreover, Sonora’s discrimination against Chinese provides a particularly compelling context for understanding the multifaceted tensions between federal and state power and among the three branches of government. Mexico’s Supreme Court and federal judiciary played a particular role in moving post-revolutionary Mexico from violence towards law as its organizing principle.

This study first presents a detailed analysis of the political and legal context that led Quong Fat’s case to the Supreme Court. An analysis of the Supreme Court’s reasoning follows, considering the process by which the Supreme Court found no violations of the new Constitution under either Article 4’s right to work or Article 21´s allocation of judicial and administrative authority. The Supreme Court revoked the lower court’s grant of amparo against fines and imprisonment but upheld amparo for the forced closures of Chinese businesses. Ten other cases follow, cases in which the Supreme Court considered enforcement against Chinese of Sonora’s 1919 Labor Law and its 1931 amendment. The Court decided all of these cases on procedural grounds rather than on the merits. In conclusion, the study observes themes to be drawn from the cases including the substantive meaning of Articles 4 and 21, the development of Supreme Court procedure and jurisprudence, the value of lawyers, and the shifting and often volatile relationship between the federal judiciary, federal executive, and state authority in post-revolutionary Sonora.