Posted on November 30, 2005

‘86 Alito Memo Argues Against Foreigners’ Rights

Jo Becker and Amy Goldstein, Washington Post, Nov. 29

As a senior lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, Samuel A. Alito Jr. argued that immigrants who enter the United States illegally and foreigners living outside their countries are not entitled to the constitutional rights afforded to Americans.

In an opinion that offers insight into the Supreme Court nominee’s view of an area of law that has gained new significance with the Bush administration’s policies to combat terrorism, Alito gave his approval to an FBI effort in the 1980s to collect from Canadian authorities fingerprint cards of Iranian and Afghan refugees living in that country.

The program to collect background information was constitutional, Alito wrote in a January 1986 memo to the FBI director. And because the refugees were nonresident immigrants of a third country, he reasoned, the FBI could disregard court decisions that prohibited it from spreading “stigmatizing” information about citizens.

With the Supreme Court scheduled to hear a major case this term involving the Bush administration’s policy of trying “enemy combatants” in military tribunals, Alito’s views of the FBI’s old anti-terrorism fingerprint program have resonance today, reflecting what legal experts said is a broad and aggressive view of the law.