Category Archives: Law: Right to Travel

Can Governors Prevent Syrian Refugees From Entering Their States? (Updated)

I am confident that in a just world, the answer should be “no”. But we don’t always live in a just world. I wish I had time to write a careful analysis, but I don’t, so here are some first thoughts. Corrections and amplifications welcomed.

UPDATE: This is why I should never blog from memory, at least pre-coffee. This morning I conflated the right to move about within a state — not a clearly established federal right, cf. the aftermath of Katrina — with the right to move about between states, which is quite well established: Sáenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489 (1999) held that a classification (here, lesser welfare benefits for new residents in their first year) that has the effect of imposing penalty on the right to travel violates the Equal Protection Clause absent a compelling governmental interest. What’s more the Court defined the right to travel interstate as having three parts: the right to enter and leave another State; the right to be treated as a welcome visitor while temporarily present in another State; and, for those travelers who elect to become permanent residents, the right to be treated like other citizens of that State.

That ought to settle it.

Three areas of law seem relevant to the question.

First, immigration law, which is a matter of only federal concern. States do not in any way get to control movement across the international border. So if the feds want to let refugees into the US, they are admitted to the US. Even at airports in states that say they don’t want refugees.

Second, anti-discrimination law. Here, we find more of a patchwork. Rather than a single federal statute prohibiting national origin discrimination, we have a collection of piecemeal legislation. It might be that none of the usual anti-discrimination laws, which are aimed at things like housing and employment, speak to the issue of free movement between states.

Third, and not least, there is the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, backed up by § 1983 of the federal code (§ 1983 prohibits the deprivation of constitutional and federal statutory rights by persons acting under “color of law”). As I understand it, neither the Equal Protection Clause nor any other part of the Constitution has been definitively held by the courts to create a right of free movement between states. [Note the update above – should be “within” not “between”.] Thus, at least at the Supreme Court level, it is technically an open question whether a state might close its borders to everyone. (The question arose after authorities closed a bridge preventing escape from areas of New Orleans hit by Hurricane Katrina. I have some doubts that a state could seal its border legally other than briefly in response to an emergency, but again, if memory serves the Supreme Court hasn’t prohibited that in so many words.) What is not at doubt, however, is that if a state were to attempt some sort of border control, it must do so in a manner that does not discriminate invidiously. (If they are searching for a White Toyota, it is not invidious to only stop White Toyotas.) The state may not treat its own inhabitants better than those of other states. And it may not discriminate on grounds of race or any other suspect class. I would presume national origin is such a class; whether immigration status qualifies (if only a proxy for national origin) is a little trickier, but I’d hope so.

Somewhat related: Important Freedom to Travel Decision From the DC Circuit (7/11/09); Plenty of Blame to Go Round (IV) (9/11/05)

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law: Constitutional Law, Law: Right to Travel | Leave a comment

Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Nobel-PrizeTSA Questions Scientist Trying to Bring His Nobel Prize Through Security:

“They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’ I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’

“They said, ‘What’s in the box?’ I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.

“So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’ I said, ‘gold.’ And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’ ‘The King of Sweden.’ ‘Why did he give this to you?’ ‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’

“At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humour. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”

Daily Telegraph via View from the Wing.

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Judge Holds No-Fly List Violates Due Process and APA

Took a long time, but the courts are coming around. Here’s a major decision from Judge Anna Brown in the Latif v. Holder case. (Via Just Security Blog.)

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Did AG Eric Holder Commit Perjury? Whose Head Should Roll?

David Kravitz’s Wired article, How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error begins like this:

After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.

FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.

What happened next was the real shame. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name.

The article includes a link to Attorney General Eric Holder’s declaration in Ibrahim v. DHS. It’s pretty awful — even worse than the article makes it sound. Here are the last two paragraphs (emphasis added):

16. On September 23, 2009, I announced a new Executive Branch policy governing the assertion and defense of the state secrets privilege in litigation. Under this policy, the Department of Justice will defend an assertion of the state secrets privilege in litigation, and seek dismissal of a claim on that basis, only when necessary to protect against the risk of significant hann to national security. See Exhibit 1 (State Secrets Policy),§ l(A). The policy provides further that an application of a privilege assertion must be narrowly tailored and that dismissal be sought pursuant to the privilege assertion only when necessary to prevent significant harm to national security. !d. § 1(B). Moreover, “[t]he Department will not defend an invocation of the privilege in order to: (i) conceal violations of the law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (ii) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency of the United States Government; (iii) restrain competition; or (iv) prevent or delay the release of information the release of which would not reasonably be expected to cause significant harm to national security.” !d. § 1(C). The policy also establishes detailed procedures for review of a proposed assertion of the state secrets privilege in a particular case. !d. § 2. Those procedures require submissions by the relevant Government departments or agencies specifying “(i) the nature of the information that must be protected from unauthorized disclosure; (ii) the significant harm to national security that disclosure can reasonably be expected to cause; [and] (iii) the reason why unauthorized disclosure is reasonably likely to cause such harm.” ld § 2(A). Based on my personal consideration of the matter, I have determined that the requirements for an assertion and defense of the state secrets privilege have been met in this case in accord with the September 2009 State Secrets Policy.

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

I think someone should lose their job over this. Perhaps that someone is the person who misinformed the Attorney General as to the facts of the case, perhaps not. In any event, Attorney General Eric Holder owes us all an explanation as to why that someone is not him.

Posted in 9/11 & Aftermath, Law: Ethics, Law: Right to Travel | 5 Comments

Big Win in No-Fly Case — But You Can’t Read the Decision, It’s Secret

Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim won her case against the DHS for erroneously putting her on the no-fly list (see No Fly List on Trial for background). The case was characterized by plausible allegations of various government shenanigans designed to keep Dr. Ibrahim’s US citizen daughter from attending the trial.1 And of course Dr. Ibrahim herself couldn’t come either since she couldn’t fly there.

Rather than issue a public decision, the court issued a “public notice” stating that “findings of fact and conclusions of law” have been issued but would not be published. I’ve never seen one of those before. Usually courts that feel a need to redact things issue decisions with the secret parts whited out – even if they go for pages.

In any case, the short notice tells us the outcome: a win on the key aspects of the merits.

Interstingly, publication of the full opinion is stayed until April 15, 2014, pending a ruling by the Court of Appeals on the secrecy. If, as I assume, this is a CIPA case, I think this date means the trial judge wanted to publish the opinion and the government objected. That would give the government the right to an urgent interlocutory appeal on the issue — the only way I can see the Court of Appeals ruling on anything relating to this matter anywhere near that quickly.

  1. Note that I exclude from the category of shenanigans the denial of access to plaintiff’s counsel of classified info. If the court’s account of the conditions the lawyers demanded, which included discussing the material with their client, was accurate, the court had no choice but to deny the request since the law simply does not allow that. 

Posted in Law: Right to Travel, National Security | 4 Comments

No Fly List on Trial

Edward Hasbrouck is reporting daily from Ibrahim v. DHS, a fascinating and important case about the no-fly lists. Must-reads for anyone interested in privacy, civil liberties — or intending to attempt air travel.

Shocking day one event: TSA allegedly (and, day two suggests, in fact) prevented a key witness (a US citizen) for the complainant to fly to the trial to testify. At present the evidence is only hearsay; if the witness ever makes it to the trial–sounds like a bad thriller doesn’t it?–then we’ll have sworn testimony.

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Constitutional Snark

If I were of a snarky disposition, I’d ask a question about how today’s decision in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District applies to the TSA.

Among other things, today’s opinion by Justice Alito states that the unconstitutional conditions doctrine vindicates the Constitution’s enumerated rights by preventing the government from coercing people into giving them up (in this case by demanding excessive pro-environmental spending or concessions from a wetlands developer), and reiterates that “the government may not deny a benefit to a person because he exercises a constitutional right.” What’s more, the decision states that “A contrary rule would be especially untenable in this case because it would enable the government to evade the limitations of Nollan and Dolan simply by phrasing its demands for property as conditions precedent to permit approval.”

Doesn’t all this resonate with the implicit conversation when you go to the airport and want to fly on a plane? ‘Agree to be irradiated or groped, or give up your right to travel’1 I think I know the answer Justice Alito would give: either there is no such constitutional right not to be searched in the circumstances, so nothing is being given up, or the loss is somehow not important given the state interest. Funny how that doesn’t work for property, though.

Fortunately, I am well medicated these days, so I don’t snark hardly at all.

  1. For those who deny the existence of the right to travel, how about ‘give up the right to your property/contract interest in your non-refundable ticket’. 

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law, Law: Right to Travel | Leave a comment