Sunday, August 5, 2007

Citizens and Aliens

In recent comments, Erik and GlennT made observations that have led me to the writing of this post. The question on the table is: does the U.S. Constitution apply to legal and illegal aliens? Having studied the issue, my answer is yes and no.

It's clear to me that Mr. Madison and the numerous Founders who lent their input to the Constitution's formation were drafting a document for U.S. citizens, not those of Mexico, China, England, Russia, or France. This is self-evident, for in the Preamble itself we are informed that:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The document differentiates between citizens and non-citizens. For example, aliens cannot hold the offices of U.S. Representative or Senator. Article I Section 8 bestows Congress with the power to create uniform Rules of Naturalization. Section 9 reveals that Congress may not hinder individual states in allowing the migration or importation of people who meet the states' approval. We're also told that Habeus Corpus may not be suspended, with the exceptions of invasion or rebellion. Question: If 1.1 million illegal aliens entering our borders annually doesn't constitute an invasion, pray tell, what would?

Article II Section 1 informs us that non-citizens may not hold the office of the President. By extension, the Vice President also must meet citizenship requirements, since the possibility exists of his becoming Chief Executive in a time of crisis. Electors must be residents of the states they represent, disqualifying illegal aliens.

The point of the above is to illustrate that the Constitution--and those who molded it--made distinctions between citizens and non-citizens. Non-citizens did not hold the same rights and privileges as citizens.

Let's take a look at the Bill of Rights and its application to aliens. Amendment 1 provides freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and petitioning the government. It only applies in part. It's absurd on its face that aliens should have the latitude to become members of our press, initiate assemblies, or petition the government. I have no gripe with extending freedom of religion or speech to aliens.

The Second Amendment deals with gun ownership. The idea that aliens have a right to bear arms within our borders is asinine and conducive to chaos.

Amendment 3 is not applicable to this conversation. Amendment 4 entails search and seizure rights. I believe this applies to aliens, because private property is just that, regardless one's position on a map, and should be held inviolate.

Amendment 5 details due process and just compensation. This extends to aliens, because it harkens back to the natural rights of all men: life, liberty and property, except where due process has run its course.

Amendments 6 (speedy trial, confronting witnesses), 7 (trial by jury in civil cases), and 8 (no cruel or unusual punishment) are relatives of Amendment 5, so they apply to aliens. Amendments 9 and 10 are general statements about the Constitution's nature, and the powers of the states and their citizens.

For length purposes, I'll not deconstruct the other Amendments. We have a mixed bag. When we speak of life, liberty, property and due process, the Constitution sides with everyone in our territories, not just citizens. This harmonizes with a key principle fleshed out in our earlier Declaration of Independence, which states:

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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Fitting aspects of our Constitution apply to all people within our borders, whether citizen or alien. Outside these parameters, I see no reason whatsoever to believe that other elements in the Constitution should be construed to elevate aliens to the level of citizens. After all, if aliens share all the same rights and privileges as citizens, then there is no such thing as citizenship. This idea is diametrically opposed to everything our Founders held dear.

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