Constitutional Rights v. Natural Rights

In the People’s Court of Public Opinion, comes now the Plaintiff, Constitutional Rights, by and through counsel Political Conservatives, submits this complaint against the Defendant Natural Rights on the grounds hereinafter set forth.

Plaintiff Constitutional Rights cannot be applied to non-citizens because the Constitution only protects “We the People of the United States.” Therefore, non-citizens cannot be said to have Constitutional Rights, either of free speech and assembly or due process.

Defendant Natural Rights denies the allegations in the Plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff argues from a false concept of the relationship between the state and the human person.

We have all heard the argument that illegals shouldn’t have constitutional rights because they are not citizens. The irony of this argument is that it largely comes from political conservatives who often rabbit on with immense vigor about how the rights in the Constitution are not granted by the Constitution, but merely protected by it. I share this view i.e. that our rights stem from our being human, endowed by our Creator and Nature with our rights rather than receiving them as grants from the state.

Yet, in order to complain about immigrants not accepting American values, political conservatives reject American values. To say that an immigrant, illegal or otherwise, does not have a right to free speech is basically like telling Jefferson that his whole Declaration thing was wrong because the unwritten constitution of Great Britain didn’t allow the colonists to declare independence.

They will dress up the extension of due process rights to illegal immigrants as a sort of carte blanc to enter the country. This is their own self-denial and cognitive dissonance. Due process rights state that someone cannot be indefinitely detained or detained without charges or not given a fair process by which their issue can be addressed. This was important to the colonists before the Revolution because Great Britain would detain people and then send them to England to be held without the prospect of a trial.

To say that someone does not have a right to due process because they are not an American citizen is to repudiate the whole theory of Natural Rights the Constitution was based on. In the debates about the Bill of Rights, the Federalists actually argued that to make a Bill of Rights, the rights of the people would actually be limited. The Anti-Federalists argued that having the Bill of Rights does not mean “these are your only rights,” but rather, “your rights are but not limited to x.” The Founders never believed the Constitution granted rights nor that those enumerated the Constitution were the only one’s people had.

They believed, as I do, that our rights stem from our humanity, from our personhood. They used language such as “individual” and so on, but the sense was largely the same: each and every person/individual has rights and the government protects them. The having of rights, therefore, are prior to the Constitution. This means that, just we are endowed by the Creator with the right of due process, the illegal immigrant is given the same.

By saying the illegal does not have these rights is to say one of two things: a) that God granted special rights to Americans only or b) our rights come from the Constitution and therefore the State. Either one of these is wrong on its face; anyone can see that. Yet, faced with such a dilemma as to how they are going to deny basic human and individual rights to illegal immigrants, I wonder just how much cognitive dissonance political conservatives can drum up.


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