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The 14th Amendment Protects Illegal Immigrants

With the Presidential primaries beginning, one of the hot topics is whether  “immigrants without papers” have the protection of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  The 14th Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court say YES!:

The 14th Amendment, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The key word in this Amendment is the word “person”.  There it is as clear as day right after the term citizens.  This leaves little doubt that the Amendment was clearly meant to include every person living within the jurisdiction.  That means everyone, including those without papers, and the U.S. Supreme Court seems to agree.  In Zadvydas v. Davis (2001) the U.S. Supreme Court said that "due process" of the 14th Amendment applies to all aliens in the United States whose presence maybe or is "unlawful, involuntary or transitory."  Twenty years before Zadvydas, the Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe (1982) that Texas could not enforce a state law that prohibited children without papers from attending grade schools.  Specifically they said, “no state shall 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.' Whatever his status under immigration laws, an alien is a 'person' in any ordinary sense of the term ... the undocumented status of these children does not establish a sufficient rational basis for denying benefits that the state affords other residents.”  In Almeida-Sanchez v. United States (1973) they concluded that all criminal charge-related elements of the Constitution's amendments (the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and the 14th) such as search and seizure, self-incrimination, trial by jury and due process, protect non-citizens, legally or illegally present.

Even as far back as the late 1800’s the U.S. Supreme Court was clear about the rights of immigrants without papers.  In Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886), the court ruled that: States cannot deny equal justice is still under the Constitution.   And, in Wong Win v. United States (1896), the court ruled that all persons within the territory of the United States are entitled to the protection by the 5th and 6th Amendments, even aliens.

In summary, immigrants without papers have the full protection of due process under the U.S. Constitution by way of the word "persons" in the 14th Amendment.