The case sought to explore an inconsistency in the application of constitutional rights to those present in the US.
Many rights guaranteed in the Constitution apply equally to all citizens and foreigners present in the US, such as the protections of the criminal justice system. There is a right to public education and welfare, as well as the ability to work. But the right to participate in self-government is reserved to citizens.
Noncitizens may not vote, serve as jurors, work as police officers, as public school teachers, or hold certain public offices.
“In our view, spending money to influence voters and finance campaigns is at least as (and probably far more) closely related to democratic self-government than serving as a probation officer or public school teacher. Thus, our conclusion here follows almost a fortiori from those cases,” the three-judge panel of US District Court for the District of Columbia said in its decision.
“Temporary resident foreign citizens by definition have primary loyalty to other national political communities, many of which have interests that compete with those of the United States,” the three-judge panel said.
Lawyers for Bluman and Steiman had argued that the government can bar foreign citizens abroad from making contributions, but it can’t impose that restriction when they are present within the US.
Lawful residents of the US are entitled to the full protections of the First Amendment, wrote Washington lawyer Michael Carvin in his brief to the court.
“The decision below is not simply wrong; it is dangerous,” Mr. Carvin said. “In upholding [the campaign finance restrictions], the court drafted a road-map for every legislature that wants to take another crack at criminalizing political spending,” he said.