Trump Attacks The Fourteenth Amendment, The Most Important Constitutional Amendment To Individual Freedoms And Limited Government
US President Donald Trump has launched an attack on the Fourteenth Amendment. It is the latest move in an attempt to blunt illegal immigration. The Fourteenth Amendment has become a target, because the first section of it automatically grants citizenship to anyone who is born on US soil, even if that person’s parents are not US citizens. Donald Trump, who once thoroughly bashed former President Obama for executive overreach and his use of Executive Orders, has suggested he has the authority to issue an Executive Order that would strip newborns of their citizenship. Not only is Donald Trump unwittingly attempting to establish a dangerous precedent that would allow a President to override a Constitutional Amendment and strip away rights guaranteed to all people entitled to US citizenship, he is undermining the most important Constitutional Amendment in terms of guaranteeing Americans their freedoms and constraining government power.
Quite frankly, the US Constitution is not beholden to the US President or any other elected official. The US President and all other elected officials are beholden to the US Constitution. Their power is constrained by the US Constitution. Only by a two-thirds Congressional vote or by a Constitutional Convention convened with the approval of two-thirds of the States can the US Constitution be amended. Consequently, any unilateral attempt to simply invalidate the citizenship and rights of individuals entitled to US citizenship by the Constitution would be an attempt to invalidate the US Constitution. It would be a treasonous act of insurgency against the American People and the legal framework that establishes how the US government operates. It would be an abuse of power that would dissolve the United States as a democratic republic and pave the way for authoritarianism.
That said, the Fourteenth Amendment does not simply give the children of illegal immigrants citizenship, along with the rights and privileges of US citizenship. It also establishes the citizenship of all US citizens in all States, so neither the Federal government nor the State governments can deny any Americans their rights as citizens. Perhaps more important, the Due Process clause of the Fourteen Amendment, which is also found in the first section of the text, prevents government from stripping citizens of their rights without due process. Absent legal proceedings, government does not have the authority to strip US citizens of any of their rights without legal proceedings thanks to the Fourteenth Amendment . The Due Process clause also guarantees all US citizens equal protection under the Law. The Due Process clause prevents minorities from being discriminated against by government and compels government to protect the rights of minorities, but the Due Process clause also affords the same protections for everyone else, which gives all US citizens legal recourse when they become the targets of US officials.
The Fourteenth Amendment is the basis of most Constitutional defenses, because the Due Process clause solidifies the rights of individuals. The Bill of Rights, i.e. the original ten Amendments, establishes a few basics rights for all people, but it does little to actually guarantee those rights and those unnamed. It simply says the US federal government cannot infringe on these freedoms. Because the Bill of Rights also preserves States’ rights, it left a great deal of room for State governments and nongovernmental institutions to undermine the rights and freedoms of individuals. By extending the power of the US government to US citizens, it expanded and solidified the rights and freedoms of all Americans. The Fourteenth Amendment is the part of the Constitution that prevents government officials from abusing their powers to pick winners and losers. It prevents government officials from favoring their associates and bullying everyone else. When government does not afford all citizens equal protection or equal benefits, it is the Fourteenth Amendment that gives US citizens the legal authority to challenge the actions of government.
In 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified, thus ushering in a disastrous era of Prohibition. It was probably the most significant attempt to use the US Constitution to restrict the rights and freedoms of US citizens. Although the unregulated consumption of alcohol was a freedom by virtue of natural order, there was no precedent prohibiting the US government from banning the consumption of alcohol. The curtailing of the freedom was, therefore, legally permissive, albeit unsustainable. In contrast, there is a Constitutional precedent for birthright citizenship. More importantly, Amendments cannot be created to invalidate rights granted by existing Amendments as their existence and the rights they create prevent legislators from restricting the already established rights. Prohibition aside, the US government for the majority of its history has been liberalizing by easing the qualifications for US citizenship and broadening the list of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Law. It is a trend that empowers Americans and constraints the growing power of the US government. Erasing the Fourteenth Amendment would be the biggest step back in terms of protecting individual freedoms and curtailing government. The Trump Administration’s push to do just that is, therefore, the greatest threat to individual freedoms and efforts to reign in government overreach.
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