Justice  /  Q&A

A History of Ideological Exclusion and Deportation in the United States

On the passage and enforcement of laws to exclude or deport immigrants for their beliefs, and the people who challenged those laws.

The Docket [TD]: For those who are unfamiliar, could you please describe what you mean by “ideological exclusion and deportation in the United States” and share a bit about its history? Do you see connections between this history and current restrictions, or those over the last few years?

Julia Rose Kraut [JRK]: Ideological exclusions and deportations bar or expel foreign noncitizens from the United States based on their political beliefs, expressions, and associations. Since the Alien Friends Act of 1798, Congress has passed or revised ideological exclusion and deportation laws in the name of national security after an act of violence, during wartime or an economic depression, or at a time of national/international upheaval. I argue that ideological exclusions and deportations are tools of political repression used to suppress the threat of dissent including criticism of the United States and its politicians and policies, calls for revolution, or associations with anarchists, Communists, or terrorist organizations.

Ideological exclusions and deportations have endured because the majority of the Supreme Court has interpreted them as an immigration issue and not as a First Amendment issue – applying an immigration legal doctrine called the “plenary power doctrine,” which requires judicial deference to the legislative and executive branches of government to pass and enforce exclusion and deportation laws. This doctrine also insulates these laws from substantive judicial review and strict scrutiny under First Amendment legal standards. Over the course of the 20th century, First Amendment jurisprudence has provided more speech protective legal standards for free expression and association, but ideological restrictions have not been evaluated under these more speech protective standards, which enables them to continue to be used as tools of political repression.

Threat of Dissent examines the underlying dynamics and motivations behind the passage and enforcement of ideological exclusion and deportation laws (including tensions within presidential administrations and between public officials) and describes the legal and non-legal actors who implemented or challenged these laws, as well as those deported or excluded under them. This history includes familiar figures like Clarence Darrow, Emma Goldman, John Lennon, Graham Greene, Charlie Chaplin, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, Frances Perkins, and J. Edgar Hoover, as well as less familiar figures like Louis F. Post, Ernest Mandel, Senator Patrick McCarran, Carol Weiss King, and Leonard Boudin.

This book is a chronological narrative that begins with the passage of the Alien Friends Act of 1798 and ends in the Trump administration. I discuss President Trump’s extreme vetting policies, including the Travel Ban, often referred to as the “Muslim Ban,” which the Supreme Court upheld under the plenary power doctrine and legal precedent described in the book. I also examine the Trump administration’s use of selective deportation to expel critics and activists and its use of foreign noncitizens’ social media accounts to ideologically exclude. While the technology has changed, the government’s use of ideological exclusions and deportations as tools of political repression has remained the same.