The Hells Angels have filed a complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Citizenship and Immigration Services Department, an agency within Homeland Security, for allegedly barring its members from outside the U.S. from entering the country.
According to the complaint, members of international Hells Angels motorcycle clubs have been refused visas to visit the United States based solely on their membership in the group. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act and included in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, visas are denied when there are reasonable grounds to suspect an individual of entering the U.S. “to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in any unlawful activity.” The FAM goes on to interpret inadmissibility to any member of a “known criminal organization.” In 2001, the State Department, in accordance with Homeland Security, added active members of the Hells Angels to the list of “known criminal organizations.”
The Angels counter that they are “made up of motorcycle enthusiasts who have joined to ride motorcycles together, organize social events, fundraisers, parties and motorcycle rallies.” Today they have chartered clubs throughout the world, predominantly in Europe.
Seeking a temporary injunction on the policy while litigation proceeds, the Hells Angels claim that exclusion of international members from annual events, such as the World Run, infringes on their “constitutional right to associate for the advancement of beliefs and ideas” and “inhibits [the Angels’] freedom of speech.”
Organizations deemed “criminal” are given an avenue to challenge the designation and the Hells Angels are seeking to be removed from the State Department’s roster of “criminal organizations.”
The case is expected to proceed in the coming weeks, first with a consideration of the injunction request and then to a more complete examination of the broader legal questions raised by the complaint.
The case is Hells Angels Motorcycle Corp. v. Napolitano (1:12-cv-1357).