Town Hall Meeting

10 Feb 2010

Constitution Has Always Applied to Foreigners

Filed under: — Al @ 4:30 pm

Glenn Greenwald does an excellent job dispelling this terrible myth going around that non-Americans don’t get any rights here in America.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2008, issued a highly publicized opinion, in Boumediene v. Bush, which, by itself, makes clear how false is the claim that the Constitution applies only to Americans. The Boumediene Court held that it was unconstitutional for the Military Commissions Act to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees, none of whom was an American citizen (indeed, the detainees were all foreign nationals outside of the U.S.). If the Constitution applied only to U.S. citizens, that decision would obviously be impossible. What’s more, although the decision was 5-4, none of the 9 Justices — and, indeed, not even the Bush administration — argued that the Constitution applies only to American citizens. That is such an inane, false, discredited proposition that no responsible person would ever make that claim.

What divided the Boumediene Court was the question of whether foreigners held by the U.S. military outside of the U.S. (as opposed to inside the U.S.) enjoy Constitutional protections. They debated how Guantanamo should be viewed in that regard (as foreign soil or something else). But not even the 4 dissenting judges believed — as Susan Collins and other claim — that Constitutional rights only extend to Americans. To the contrary, Justice Scalia, in his scathing dissent, approvingly quoted Justice Jackson in conceding that foreigners detained inside the U.S. are protected by the Constitution

I’m starting to get the feeling that Republicans only problem with America is that gosh darn pesky Constitution. It keeps getting in the way of things they want to do like lock up scary brown people even when there is no proof of a crime.

Read the full column here.

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