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Plenary Power Doctrine

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According to Wilkins (1997), plenary is defined as complete, full, perfect, and owning full authority (27). The plenary power doctrine formed in 1889, is a fundamental element which holds that the political branches comprising of the legislative and the executive have a mandate to control certain elements of governance without judicial review.

The Congress and the Executive have been mandated to execute plenary power on immigration, military bases, public lands, foreign affairs; Indian law, the District of Columbia, and U.S territories.  According to Zadvydays v. Davism declaration in 2001, the Plenary Power Doctrine is unlimited but is subject to significant constitutional limitations. Attempts to limit the Plenary Power Doctrine have been unsuccessful given that the doctrine is tightly founded on the Anglo-American legal tradition (Bosniak, 2008, p. 159.)

Presently, the Congress remains to have unlimited plenary power over areas such as immigration affairs and Indian Law. Since the 19th century, the Congress and the Executive branch continue to hold absolute plenary power over immigration without judicial intervention. While various proposals have been made to amend U.S. immigration laws such as Mexico aggressive lobby on U.S. lawmakers, U.S. courts have provided several justifications to preserve immigration regulation principally within the confines of the political branches (legislative and executive). Hence, attempts to limit the plenary power over immigration laws have failed for many years because the Supreme Court has not officially refused the doctrine (Feere 2009).

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Since 1885, the Congress has also implemented unlimited plenary power over the tribal jurisdiction by ruling out particular crimes from that jurisdiction. United States v. Kagama (1886) and Lonewolf v. Hitchcock (1903) case, declared a ruling to exercise unlimited authority over American Indian affairs on reservations .Over time, the congress amended its treaty-based relationship with tribal nations to a stringent colonial construction. Today, the congress holds unlimited plenary power over American Indian tribes since it deliberately breached its constitutionally limited powers and continued to impose laws over Indian tribes (Pommersheim, 2009, p.267).

The Plenary Power continues to be utilized in constitutional law, political science, and federal Indian policy. It has remained to be applicable and unlimited today in the United States despite of considerable criticism.

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