In April1987, the CCR and the ACLU of Southern California challenged the constitutionality of the McCarran-Walter Act on behalf of seven Palestinians and a Kenyan who were arrested, held without bail, and threatened with deportation because of alleged “membership” or “affiliation” with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group which, according to the INS, advocates “doctrines of world communism” and the “destruction of property.” According to government sources, the group was charged under the McCarran-Walter Act after a year- long criminal investigation produced no evidence.
The government defended the act, which authorizes the deportation of aliens for speech and associational activities of a nature clearly protected by the First Amendment, by saying that the Bill of Rights is “constitutionally irrelevant” when the INS seeks to deport an alien.
The district court initially deferred ruling but, in January 1989, the court issued a historic decision striking down as unconstitutional the McCarran Walt er Act provisions that the government was seeking to use against the plaintiffs. The court held that the First Amendment protects aliens as well as citizens in this country, and that the government is constitutionally barred from deporting aliens for their political beliefs and affiliations. The government has appealed .
David Cole, Michael Ratner, with Paul Hoffman, Carol Sobel, Mark Rosenbaum, ACLU Foundation. of Southern Califomia; Dan Stormer, Marc Van Der Hout, NLG; Wade Henderson, Hope Nakamura, ACLU; Peter Schey, National Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Inc.