The notion that the U.S. Constitution only protects U.S. citizens is palpably false. It is an indictment of our education system that any American could think such an outrageous thing.
The drafters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were educated men. They chose their words carefully. They debated over precise word choice. One can assume every word they chose was done with a purpose.
The Constitution and the first ten amendments distinguish between the concept of “people/persons” and the concept of “citizen.” For example, Article I, Section 3, says “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States…”.
A “person” is therefore different from a “citizen.” Everyone is a person, but only some are citizens.
This distinction is seen again in Article II, Section 1: “No Person except a natural born Citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President.” Again, you may be a person, but you can’t be President unless you are also a citizen. The drafters of the Constitution knew when they wanted it to apply to people and when they wanted it to apply only to citizens.
The first two paragraphs of Article IV, Section 2, clearly distinguish between “citizen” and “person.” It reads:
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
Therefore, only citizens are entitled to “privileges and immunities” but all persons charged with a crime who then cross state lines shall “be delivered up.” It does not matter if you are a citizen or not if you are a fugitive. Of course that makes sense.
The point, however, is that the Constitution and its Amendments clearly distinguish between “citizen” and “persons.” “Citizen” means those either born in the United States (and subject to the jurisdiction thereof) or naturalized. “Persons” and “people” mean everyone.
For instance, the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”. The First Amendment therefore grants to all people the same protection against certain congressional action, regardless of citizenship status.
The Fourth Amendment, likewise, applies to the “people,” and not just citizens. It reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated …”.
Likewish, the Fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, … nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
And the Sixth Amendment:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused [not just citizens] shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The notion that the U.S. Constitution does not apply to non-citizens is incorrect. It even applies to those in the country illegally. For instance, the government cannot keep an illegal alien locked up indefinitely. An undocumented worker will still get an attorney appointed to him if charged with a crime. I hope this little blog post helps alleviate that misconception.
In light of the War on Terror, the Patriot Act and the recently passed NDAA, among other legislation, it appears the Constitution doesn’t even apply to citizens any longer.
And that is sad.