We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to oppose Amendment No. 34 to H.R. 2356, the Shays-Meehan bill, which is being offered by Rep. Richard Armey (R-TX). The Armey amendment bans campaign contributions and independent expenditures in federal elections by lawful permanent residents. We urge you to oppose the Armey amendment, and to oppose the final campaign finance bill if it contains such a ban.
Political participation by lawful permanent residents does not involve "foreign money" because lawful permanent residents are stakeholders in our society. Like citizens and unlike temporary foreign visitors, lawful permanent residents pay taxes on their worldwide income and serve in the armed forces.
Banning contributions and expenditures by lawful permanent residents is based on the premise - which has already been implicitly rejected by the courts - that only those who can vote have the right to express their views about public policy and the political process. As the Supreme Court has found, political contributions and expenditures are forms of political speech and association protected by the First Amendment. The courts have also found that while lawful permanent residents cannot vote, they do enjoy First Amendment rights. Lawful permanent residents have a legitimate interest in expressing their views concerning the laws that govern the society they have chosen to make their permanent home.
Finally, a ban on lawful permanent resident donations is neither necessary nor effective in preventing foreign interests from illegally contributing to American political campaigns. Current law already bars contributions and expenditures from foreign sources, and also prohibits using a lawful donor as a front for donations from an unlawful source. If those rules are being evaded, there is no reason foreign interests could not use citizens rather than lawful permanent residents as fronts. Rather than restricting the First Amendment rights of lawful immigrants, Congress should take steps to ensure that current rules regarding foreign money and conduit contributions are enforced.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Civil Liberties Union
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
National Council of La Raza
National Immigration Forum
Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE)
United Jewish Communities
Cape Ann Network for Central America
Central American Resource Center of Los Angeles
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
New York Immigration Coalition