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The government may bar foreign citizens (at least those who are not lawful permanent residents of the United States) from participating in the campaign process that seeks to influence how voters will cast their ballots in the elections. Those limitations on the activities of foreign citizens are of a piece and are all part of the sovereign's obligation to preserve the basic conception of a political community.
Plaintiffs Bluman and Asenath Steiman were neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents; rather, they were lawfully in the United States on temporary work visas. Plaintiffs wanted to participate in the U.S. campaign process by donating money to candidates in the U.S. federal and state elections, to contribute to national political parties and outside political groups, and to make expenditures expressly advocating for and against the election of candidates in U.S. elections; however, plaintiffs were barred from doing so by federal statute. Plaintiffs filed the current suit, arguing that the federal ban on their proposed activities was unconstitutional. According to plaintiffs, foreign citizens lawfully residing in the United States have a right under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to contribute to candidates and political parties and to make express-advocacy expenditures. Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment.
Could the United States government bar foreign citizens from participating in the U.S. campaign process without violating the foreign citizens’ right under the First Amendment?
The court found that government (federal, state, and local) could exclude foreign citizens from activities that were part of democratic self-government in the United States. The government could bar foreign citizens (at least those who are not lawful permanent residents of the United States) from participating in the campaign process that sought to influence how voters would cast their ballots in the elections. Those limitations on the activities of foreign citizens were of a piece and were all part of the sovereign's obligation to preserve the basic conception of a political community.