Are There Any Legal Restrictions On Political Speech for Resident Aliens in the USA?

Background: As of last Fall, I made a major career change. I was fired in the tech world, but got hired as a teacher of Economics and Government at a high school in one of Austin’s more affluent suburbs.

Those of you who read my posts here know that I’m a very dogmatic conservative and an Old School Catholic with a sarcastic streak. But in “real” life, I’m far nicer, far less strident, far more open to respectful argument than you’d gather from my SDMB posts. In classes, I try very hard to get kids to participate and to offer opinions- AND to know they wont get better grades if they parrot my opinions! I tell them often, “Never take Astorian’s word for anything- Google it. Check Snopes. If I say something that sounds unbelievable, check it out.”

Now, to the actual General Question: in my Government class, I have a student whose family moved to Texas from Denmark a few years ago (I should have known she was Scandinavian- she speaks English TOO perfectly to be American!). She told me after class yesterday that she’d LIKE to offer political opinions in class but that she CAN’T because one condition of keeping a Green Card is that she can’t speak on politics in the USA.

Now, I am not a lawyer, but I told her I’d be very surprised if that was true. Regardless, I told her that in MY class, she could say whatever she liked, and nobody was going to report her to the State Department.

But since I’m not a lawyer, I don’t want to risk getting her in trouble. I assumed the First Amendment applies to everyone in the USA, even non-citizens. Hell, the Alien and Sedition Acts are long gone.

Is this girl simply misinformed? Or is there genuine danger that a Green Card could be revoked for political speech?

IANAL either, but I would lay odds it isn’t true. She has to abide by the law, but there is no law against foreigners talking politics.


I agree with Shodan, but it might make sense to talk to her parents about this (assuming they are the source of her info) and find out what specifically their concerns are.

If there were speech restrictions for people with green cards, we would be hearing about it all the time through the news and social media. It would be a giant free speech issue.

But we don’t, so there aren’t. I agree with John that there’s more to this story.

Historically at times of Russian meddling in U.S. affairs, there have been things like the McCarthy hearings. Blacklisting in Hollywood of communists, etc.

Seems we are of necessity entering another of those times. But this time the hunt for communists and those spreading Russian propaganda/fake news will be on forums like this and internet social media.

These posters MUST be outed!

With that said, I should think it would be prudent for the teacher in question to not talk politics for now. Even if there is no law (yet) against it.

So far as freedom of speech, note that there is movement afoot to stop Russia from causing any more damage in western countries. Germany has proposed a fake news law just for Facebook! (They will fine web sites and posters of fake news.)

Might want to research what happened during the McCarthy hearings era. A lot of our so called freedoms were thrown out the window at that time.

However during the Vietnam era, Russia was heavily involved in turning young people in the U.S. against the government. I don’t know what the U.S. government did about that?

P.S. I found something on the Vietnam era…
“In the United States, the COINTELPRO program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation includes FBI agents posing as political activists to disrupt the activities of political groups in the U.S., such as the, Ku Klux Klan, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the American Indian Movement. Though aimed at all radical political groups, the primary targets of COINTELPRO were new left organizations dealing in civil rights and anti-war activity.”]

Constitutionally, No. The Constitution never mentions citizens, but applies all rights equally to “the people”. Which broadly means anyone who is subject to US jurisdiction.

Since I was a young person against the government during the Vietnam Era, I’d love a cite for how the Russians were involved in my decision.

The First Amendment is pretty sacred, so I find it hard to believe the girl’s story.
So it sure sounds like there is something else in the background,–and here’s my guess:

She (or much more likely, her parents) are desperate to convert their Green Cards to full citizenship. Till then, they are guests of the US government, and they feel very insecure about their future. So they have to be very very careful. Any kind of police record or criminal activity can be an excuse to kick them out of the country, with no jury trial necessary. A faceless bureaucrat can just cancel their visa, and make them leave.

So her parents probably had “The Talk” with her: warning her to stay completely off the radar from the police. They probably exaggerated the dangers, and told her–not just no underage drinking, no smoking pot,etc., but also no traffic stops, and no suspicious behavior of any sort.

And maybe also no political discussions of any sort. Because that might cause her to mention the word terrorism,or expose some hint of supporting radicals of some kind. Suppose a terror attack occurs, and she once made a Facebook post about politics that got quoted by a friend of someone who was involved— her name could get linked as a “person of interest” to the FBI. And that could ruin her entire family’s hope of staying in America.
On edit:
(OOPS!–I just realized this thread is in GQ, and I’m just offering guesswork. Sorry. )

Modertor Note

Me_Billy, none of this provides any factual information about the question asked in the OP. Your political opinions do not belong in this forum. No warning issued, but confine yourself to factual responses to the question at hand.

General Questions Moderator

No need to apologize. I have already speculated along the same lines, and I suspect you’re right. It’s more likely that her parents told her to keep a low profile than that the government warned them to clam up about politics.

But if I’m wrong, and she COULD get into trouble for saying the wrong thing, I wouldn’t want to urge her to offer risky commentary.

Mind you, she doesn’t strike me as a radical- she’s probably an ordinary middle class Scandinavian Social Democrat. She’d probably want to tell her classmates things like, “In Europe, we can’t believe you Americans ______.” (Fill in the blank: “allow guns,” or “still have the death penalty,” or “don’t provide free health care”).

She is prohibited from contributing money to any American election campaign or political party. See 2 USC sec. 441e; Bluman v. FEC. I know of no other speech restrictions unique to foreign nationals.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. This is just anonymous chat.

On this informational page by US Citizenship and Immigration Services I found a mention that permanent residents are “Expected to support the democratic form of government and not to change the government through illegal means”. As far as I know the first condition is over and above a citizen’s legal duties.

This is anti-American capitulation. The McCarthy hearings were a disgrace, and a repeat is not inevitable, nor “out of necessity”.

Teachers must teach students to challenge authority. The United States very survival depends on citizens taking care of themselves, and holding the government strictly accountable. The OP should by all means talk to the student’s parents to find their concerns, but no one can be punished or deported for speech. Any attempt to punish speech should be publicly discussed and mocked until the offender is removed from a position to punish.

That prohibition only applies to “foreign nationals (other than those who have been admitted to the United States for permanent residence)”, i.e., it does not apply to green-card holders. ( ).

I was a permanent resident of the US for about 9 years, and during that time I was careful to acquaint myself with the limits on my participation in political activities. As a non-citizen I as not allowed to sign petitions or help to circulate petitions (and on several occasions I told others that I wasn’t allowed to do that). Of course I wasn’t allowed to vote or run for office. However, I was allowed to donate to political campaigns and parties, and did so.

The current atmosphere on one side of political spectrum (and portions of the other) of red-baiting, including the stupid assertions of “Russian ties” about anyone who ever had any business with Russia resembles quite nicely the McCarthy years.

All you need is for Democrats to peel off a few Republicans to start the Congressional hearings where they pull people in and accuse them of being “Russian puppets” and the resemblance will be complete. If partisans on the board here are doing that, why not partisans in Congress? McCain even starts with the same letters as McCarthy.

McCarthyism is coming back. As Karl Marx said, history repeats itself, first time as tragedy, second as a farce. The farce is starting now.

^^ This, more or less.


The Federal Election Commission provides some guidance for non-citizens which may touch on the OP’s student’s concerns.

If she actually has an approved, non-conditional, green card then she can make political contributions of cash, within contributions limits that apply to all citizens. But if she is in the US as a dependent (with a K-2 or H-4 visa) of a parent (with a K-1 or H1-B visa) who is on a different visa type she may be barred from making such contributions.

The FEC brochure provides some guidance as to what sort of volunteer election related activities she could involve herself with if she does not hold a green card.

So the exact nature of her volunteering might cross the line and be prohibited as an in kind contribution to a federal campaign. Putting up campaign flyers might be allowed while providing graphic design services to a campaign to design the flyer might be prohibited.

It seems highly doubtful that expressing her opinions in the course of classroom discussion could be considered a violation of this law, but the Op’s student may simply wish to shy away from anything related to politics out of a general sense of concern that is might be perceived as a problem.

I appreciate the correction! (And the illustration as to why one shouldn’t trust what sounds like legal advice here).

Moderator Note and Instructions

runningdude and Okrahoma, I already issued a moderator note that the post to which you are replying was inappropriate. Responding to it is inappropriate as well.

To everyone: Do not continue this hijack. Further posts of this kind may be subject to a warning.

General Questions Moderator

My thoughts…
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"

Does not say only citizens residents etc, but ALL
So i would think it would be unconstitutional to deny anyone freedom of speech, citizen or visitor?