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Constitutional Rights for Nonresident Aliens: a Doctrinal and Normative Argument


The decision in Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), held that nonresident aliens (NRAs) detained for years in Guantanamo have a constitutional right to bring a habeas petition to challenge their detention. But the larger issue of constitutional rights for NRAs remains unresolved. Do NRAs outside of Guantanamo have constitutional rights? If so, do they enjoy substantial protections, such as those under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments? I argue here that the doctrine remains unclear, that the text is likewise unclear, that originalist arguments should carry little force, but that the normative argument is clear. As a condition of the legitimacy of U.S. law, NRAs must enjoy a range of constitutional rights that protect them from unjust harm at the hands of the United States.