Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972)

2012-07-20 10:31:29

If authorized by Congress, the Executive Branch can deny noncitizens entry into the United States on ideological grounds even when the denial is inconsistent with First Amendment norms.

Mandel, a Belgian journalist and self-described revolutionary Marxist, was invited to speak to academics in the United States. The government denied his visa application because he was excludable under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which barred advocates of the doctrines of world communism from entering the United States. The Attorney General refused to waive the exclusion provision on the ground that Mandel had flagrantly abused a previous visa by engaging in activities ‘‘far beyond the stated purposes of his trip.’’

Mandel asked the Court to address the following question: ‘‘Does the [government’s] action in refusing to allow an alien scholar to enter the country to attend academic meetings violate the First Amendment rights of American scholars and students who had invited him?’’ Sidestepping that question, the Court concluded that Congress’ plenary power over issues of admission, exclusion, and deportation of aliens trumped the legitimate First Amendment rights at stake at least in this case where the government had provided a ‘‘facially legitimate and bona fide’’ reason for refusing to waive the exclusion ground.

The plenary power doctrine continues to give the political branches deference to shape immigration law and policy even in ways inconsistent with cherished constitutional values and civil liberties.


References and Further Reading

  • Scanlan, John, Aliens in the Marketplace of Ideas: The Government, The Academy and the McCarran-Walter Act, Texas Law Review 66 (1988): 1481–1546.
  • Scaperlanda, Michael, Justice Marshall and the Legacy of Dissent in Federal Alienage Cases, Oklahoma Law Review 47 (1994): 55–74.
  • Shapiro, Steven, Ideological Exclusions: Closing the Border to Political Dissidents, Harvard Law Review 100 (1987): 930–945.

See also Academic Freedom; Aliens, Civil Liberties of; Bill of Rights: Structure; Chae Chan Ping v. U.S., 130 U.S. 581 (1889) and the Chinese Exclusion Act; Freedom of Press: Modern Period (1917–Present); Freedom of Speech: Modern Period (1917– Present); Marketplace of Ideas Theory; National Security; National Security and Freedom of Speech; 9/11 and the War on Terrorism; Noncitizens and Civil Liberites; Plenary Power Doctrine; Terrorism and Civil Liberties