The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, ruled 3-0 that a lower court judge acted too hastily in dismissing Ray Askins' and Christian Ramirez's First Amendment claims against the US Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials.
It faulted the judge for deciding in a "conclusory fashion" that the case should be dismissed because of the government's "extremely compelling interest" in border security and general interest in protecting US territorial sovereignty.
While reasonable restrictions on speech might be justified, "it is the government's burden to prove that these specific restrictions are the least restrictive means available to further its compelling interest," Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the appeals court.
"They cannot do so through general assertions of national security, particularly where plaintiffs have alleged that CBP is restricting First Amendment activities in traditional public fora such as streets and sidewalks," he added.
Andy Reuss, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, declined to comment.