Law Dictionary

Yick Wo v. Hopkins

U.S. Case Law

legal Definition of Yick Wo v. Hopkins

118 U.S. 356 (1886), declared that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to all persons, not just citizens. The case is notable for having addressed both the rights of noncitizens and the issue of police power directed against them. Yick Wo was a Chinese immigrant who ran a small San Francisco laundry that was shut down by police for being in violation of a city ordinance against operating commercial enterprises out of wooden buildings. It was widely understood that the ordinance targeted Chinese businesses, since such businesses made predominant use of wooden construction (which was not itself prohibited). In its ruling, the Court sanctioned local authorities for arbitrary application of the law and upheld the right of citizens and noncitizens alike to appeal to the Fourteenth Amendment for protection against discrimination.

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