First Amendment Rights of Lawful Residents

A newly filed case, Bluman v. FEC, challenges 2 U.S.C. § 441e, which provides:

It shall be unlawful for—
(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—
(A) a contribution … in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication ….

(b) … As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means … an individual who is not a citizen of the United States … and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence ….

Plaintiffs say they live in the U.S. and have visas that let them work at a particular place, though they aren’t permanent residents (a status that would let them work anywhere). People with such visas (or with student visas) may often live legally in the U.S. for many years without becoming permanent residents or citizens. Generally speaking, they have the same First Amendment rights as citizens (at least when it comes to criminal or civil liability for speech); the question whether that also extends to (1) the right to contribute to candidates or parties, and (2) the right to make independent expenditures in support of or opposition to candidates. Prof. Rick Hasen (Election Law Blog) has more.

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