April 30, 2003

Deporting Immigrants

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a controversial 1996 law:

The government can imprison immigrants it is seeking to deport without first giving them a chance to show that they present neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, a divided Supreme Court ruled today.

The 5-to-4 decision upheld the mandatory-detention provisions of a 1996 immigration law as applied to a substantial category of aliens who are lawful permanent residents of the United States and who have been convicted of any of a number of drug crimes and other "aggravated" offenses.

Let's face it: this is a terrible law. Even without the stories of immigrants who have lived here since they were a few years old, and who don't speak Korean but are being deported to Korea, the law is lousy just on a surface consideration of its merits. What this law says, is that the US government can decide to hold a person under this law, and in doing so can deny him the opportunity to prove that he should not be held under the law. That's pretty offensive.

On the other hand, the Constitution does not require that a law be sensible or morally upstanding; only that it be passed by the methods given in the Constitution, and accord with powers granted the government by the Constitution. Since it is generally held that these powers include the right to control who can and cannot legally remain in the country, providing that they are not citizens, and since the law was passed in the normal manner, the Supreme Court's decision was a good one. Now that the Supreme Court has so decided, it would be a good idea to get this law amended, rather than letting such an unreasonable law stay on the books.

By the way, a citizen "owns" living in America, while a non-citizen is essentially here as a guest of the government (as Cato points out, so there is a due process argument to be made for citizens that would not apply to non-citizens.

Posted by Jeff at April 30, 2003 02:56 PM | Link Cosmos
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