President Donald Trump’s repeated calls this week to do away with due process for unauthorized immigrants at the border — a group he decried as invaders — should be summarily rejected by anyone who believes America is a nation of laws.
It still is, right? No one’s invoked martial law?
That prospect isn’t as unfathomable as it should be when the president equates immigrants, some of whom are asylum seekers or children, to marauders or attacks some of the plainest language in the U.S. Constitution. Immigration is and always will be a complex issue, especially with a president intent on using it as a political wedge ahead of midterm elections that could shape both his presidency and the course of the nation. But some things should be sacrosanct, like the Fifth Amendment, which holds that “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law.”
Yet on Sunday, leaving no doubt where he stands on the issue, Trump tweeted, “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”
And on Monday, the president further explained his thinking, such as it is, tweeting, “Hiring many thousands of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go — will always be disfunctional. People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally. Children brought back to their country … … “
Meanwhile, Congress is hashing out an immigration bill to address the Trump administration’s much-maligned family separation policy, in talks led by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Perhaps they will prioritize cases of families with children or add hundreds, not thousands, of new immigration judges. There are only 334 immigration judges in the Justice Department now, with 150 budgeted vacancies and 70,000-plus cases pending in U.S. immigration courts as of May. That’s a problem. The Justice Department’s case completion standard for immigration judges is 700 a year.
Why so high? The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that due process applies to all people since the 1800s. “Even aliens,” the court wrote in 1896.
In 1982, the court further explained a century of its own thinking, writing, “Aliens, even aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful, have long been recognized as ‘persons’ guaranteed due process of law by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”
In USA Today, Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, agreed with other activists and scholars that Trump’s rash idea was illegal and unconstitutional. “Any official who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws should disavow it unequivocally,” Jadwat said.
Maybe instead of focusing on crowd size after his inauguration, the president should have given far more thought to his oath of office, when he swore to “the best” of his ability to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” His oath was only 38 words — so few they’d fit in a tweet.
This editorial was written by the staff of the San Diego Union-Tribune. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.