Reagan v. Abourezk

LOCATION: Wall Street Journal Corporate Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 86-656
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1987-1988)

CITATION: 484 US 1 (1987)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1987
DECIDED: Oct 19, 1987

Facts of the case


Media for Reagan v. Abourezk

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1987 in Reagan v. Abourezk

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments, first this afternoon, in Number 86-656, Ronald Reagan versus James Abourezk, and you may proceed whenever you are ready, Mr. Wallace.

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, these cases, which were consolidated in the District Court, present questions concerning the denial, on foreign policy grounds, of non-immigrant visas to aliens invited by persons or groups in this country to participate in public or academic discussions.

The denials were based on a provision that appears on page 2 of our brief, Subsection 27, of a list of provisions in Section 1182 of Title VIII, which are provisions or bases for excluding aliens from the issuances of visas.

And, in this instance, they were denied as prejudicial to the public interest or endangering the welfare, safety, or security of the United States.

The Court of Appeals held, and it is not contested in this Court, that foreign policy concerns can be a proper basis for a denial under Subsection 27; that something detrimental to our foreign policy interests would be within the broad formulation of prejudicial to the public interest or endangering the welfare of the United States.

And the statutory issues that remain in the case, are whether that denial can be based on detriment to our foreign policy that flows from the very presence or entry of the alien into this country?

Or whether it must be based strictly on something detrimental about the particular activities in which he plans to engage?

And whether, if that question is answered favorably, to the Government, the authority that we would then have to deny the visas, under Subsection 27, has been abrogated by what is commonly called the McGovern Amendment, which amended another provision of Section 1182, Subsection 28.


William J. Brennan, Jr.:

May I ask, Mr. Wallace?

I gather you have to persuade us that to engage in activities, is virtually meaningless, do you not?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

--Well, I would not characterize my burden that way, Mr. Justice.


William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, what does it mean, do you think?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

--Well, there are two ways of looking at it, that support our position.

The one that has been more commonly used in this litigation is to say that presence or entry into the United States are, themselves, activities.

That is a little difficult to reconcile with the words, "to engage", in activities, but it is not beyond the pale, in light of the legislative history.

Another way, which I think may be more helpful, is to say that, yes, they are admitted to engage in activities.

And that those activities, while not detrimental to the public interest if engaged in by somebody else, would be detrimental to the public interest, if engaged in by this individual, because it would involve his presence or entry into the United States, to engage in those activities.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, in this case, as I understand it, there is no evidence, whatever, that they had any intention of engaging in any activities.

This rests, does it not, entirely on the fact that they are members of what, the Communist Party?

Lawrence G. Wallace:


Various organizations.

In one instance, the Government of Nicaragua; in the other instance, the Federation of Cuban Women; and in the third instance, a group called the World Peace Council, which was found to be--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And by reason of their association of one or the other or more of those organizations, that they were said to be excludable under the Statute?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

--It was by reason of that, coupled with the State Department's determination that these organizations are instruments of a particular foreign government; and that it would be disadvantageous to our conduct of foreign policy, to admit someone for the purpose of carrying on that organization's program, in the activities in which they want to engage in the United States.

It would be detrimental to our foreign policy just to extend our hospitality to these individuals, by the issuance of a non-immigrant visa to engage in these activities.

Thurgood Marshall:

Mr. Wallace, it was charged that they were going to engage in those activities in this country?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

That is correct.

I mean, they wished to enter the country to engage in activities.