As I watched the unprecedented forced resettlement of immigrants from Texas to New York City, Martha’s Vineyard, and the District of Columbia, I thought my grandparents were lucky to have entered the United States at a time that, while xenophobic towards those from southern Europe, but did not condone the use of government funds to deceive and kidnap them.
I am writing, of course, about the deeply unconstitutional and patently unlawful public aggression by the governors of Florida and Texas, who have used state funds and state force to deceive and coerce Latino and Central American immigrants into boarding state-chartered flights and buses from Texas .
All immigrants who were victims of this human trafficking were here legally. All seek political asylum; everyone was properly guided through the immigration process; and all awaiting court dates in Texas.
Fleeing either dictatorships that deny personal liberty or corrupt governments that condone the lawlessness of gangs that deny the right to life, everyone has the right to apply for asylum.
Until their hearing dates, every immigrant is legally free to move or remain, and everyone enjoys constitutional protections. These safeguards include the natural and fundamental right to travel or not to travel and the constitutionally guaranteed right to due process.
This column recently covered natural rights. A right is a personal individual claim against the whole world, the exercise of which requires no government license or public consent. Natural rights spring from our humanity. This is their only source; and as such, these rights are not limited by one’s mother’s geographic location at the time of birth.
Hence the right to think what you want, say what you think, publish what you say, associate or not, worship or not, defend yourself, travel or not, own property and in To be left alone stems from the humanity of every human being. The Bill of Rights does not create rights; rather, it keeps the government from interfering with them.
The corresponding safeguards in the Bill of Rights protect every “person” and all “people,” not just Americans. In fact, the courts have ruled that these safeguards are so far-reaching and powerful – being based on natural rights – that they force the government to recognize the fundamental rights of those who are here illegally as well.
Given due process, the Constitution requires the government to hold a jury trial where it must prove its guilt before it can take anyone’s life, liberty, or property. The government to force or deceive a person on a plane or bus is a serious interference with the liberty of the person and is unlawful without due process.
In a famous case called Shapiro v. Thompson in 1969, the Supreme Court called the right to travel — which includes the right to leave a political or geographic entity — fundamental. This happened again in Plyler v. Doe in 1982. The essence of both cases is that basic human rights – here interstate and international travel – are fundamental and must be respected by government, and therefore the place of origin of the person whose rights are affected is immaterial.
In our constitutional framework, fundamental rights enjoy the highest level of protection from state interference.
Any government behavior that promotes the belief that natural rights are based on geography is contradictory, un-American, unconstitutional, and defies the truisms of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. If the government takes rights seriously, it will respect and defer individual exercise.
Now back to the public behavior of the governors of Florida and Texas, both of whom are running for re-election in November. Their forcible removal of lawfully present immigrants with the carrot or the stick is an exercise of power that is nowhere recognized and expressly contradicts current Supreme Court jurisprudence. In the case of Florida, it is simply inconceivable that its governor could control the fate and movement of people who have never had even the slightest contact with that state.
The use of state assets and powers to transport immigrants to distant locations — 1,000 miles from the sites of their asylum hearings — for the political benefit of governors, and certainly not for the benefit of the immigrants, are acts of human trafficking or kidnapping, or both.
Federal laws prohibiting human trafficking and kidnapping criminalize the forced movement or restraint of innocent individuals for the benefit of those who caused the movement or restraint.
Violence can occur through violence, deception, or threats of violence. However, the governors have committed acts of aggression against individuals who are as lawful in the United States as the governors.
The behavior of these governors shows their aversion not only to natural rights but also to the Rothbarian principle of non-aggression. This moral rubric absolutely forbids all persons – individually, collectively, or through government – to initiate or threaten violence or deception against any person.
I am surprised and disappointed by my petty government friends who have praised this abuse. It is illegal and dangerous to the core.
If it doesn’t activate, where will it stop? Can this extraterritorial use of state power affect ordinary Americans, whose constitutional protections are equal to those of lawfully present immigrants? Can the governor of New Jersey send me to Texas because I’m an unpopular thorn in his side in the Garden State? Of course not. Then neither Texas nor Florida governors can do the same.
This unconstitutional treatment of the unpopular and politically powerless like cattle will be repeated in a different form if it continues unhindered. As the great trial attorney Clarence Darrow once said before a Chicago jury, “We can’t sow the wind without reaping the hurricane.” Who will these governors target next?
• Andrew P. Napolitano is a former law professor and New Jersey Supreme Court Justice who has published nine books on the US Constitution.