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There is a First Amendment right of access to deportation proceedings. Deportation hearings, and similar proceedings, have traditionally been open to the public, and openness undoubtedly plays a significant positive role in this process.
Defendant government designated certain deportation cases to be special interest cases and conducted them in secret, closed off from the public. Plaintiffs in three separate cases sought an injunction against such action. The district court granted the injunction, finding blanket closure of deportation hearings in special interest cases to be unconstitutional.
Was the blanket closure of deportation hearings in special interest cases unconstitutional?
The grant of a preliminary injunction to plaintiffs was affirmed. The court drew a distinction between substantive and non-substantive immigration law. The court held that the directive was strictly non-substantive, and if a First Amendment right of access existed, the government must show that it was a narrowly tailored means of advancing a compelling interest. The court rejected the government's assertion that a line had been drawn between judicial and administrative proceedings, with the First Amendment guaranteeing access to the former but not the latter. Under the two-part "experience and logic" Richmond Newspapers test, the court concluded that there was a First Amendment right of access to the deportation proceedings. The court held that deportation hearings had traditionally been open to the public, and openness undoubtedly plays a significant positive role in the process.