Migrants included in U.S. rights
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 6, 2007

It was early Wednesday morning and radio talk show host Bruce Jacobs of KFYI (550 AM) was railing against Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, a guest on the program. Jacobs doesn't believe that Gordon has been tough enough on the non-citizens who live in Phoenix and, among other things, declared that "illegals" have no Constitutional rights.

When I got to the office I wrote a "blog" entry about the host's diatribe for azcentral.com, in which I pointed out a few flaws in Jacobs' argument.

But that's not enough. Not based on a chat I've had with Jacobs or on some of the responses that I read. And not since a call I received this week from a reader who said, "I don't have a computer and have no idea what a blog is. It sounds like something that I would get stuck in if my car drove off the road."

Spend any time on the Internet and you know that he is exactly correct.

A blog is a briefer, more conversational version of a newspaper column written only for the Internet. Online readers, owing to anonymity and the ability to respond immediately, are less reserved than traditional readers, transforming many "blogs" into typewritten barroom brawls.

The conversation often spins off the road, leaving civilized discourse covered in the muck thrown off by the spinning wheels of anger, indignation and mindless political ideology.

But not always. In this case, while many readers want to believe that illegal immigrants don't have constitutional rights, or shouldn't have them, most people seem to understand that they do have rights. But not everyone.

For doubters, I contacted Clint Bolick, director of the Center for Constitutional Litigation at the conservative Goldwater Institute and asked if he would answer the question.

"There are a handful of constitutional provisions that specifically apply to citizens (including the right to vote and the right to hold public office)," Bolick said. "But equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment, for reasons that are not historically clear, pertain to 'persons' and not citizens. And the Bill of Rights in its entirety applies to illegal immigrants."

He added that unless the Constitution specifically says that its rights apply only to citizens, then they apply to everyone.

"The whole idea of natural rights that the U.S. Constitution is based upon is that these are universal rights," Bolick said.

I spoke to Jacobs on the telephone later Wednesday and he said at first that he understands that illegal immigrants have "some" constitutional rights, as when accused of a crime. But he doesn't believe that they should have the right to gather for demonstrations like those held last year, even if the right to freely assemble is in the First Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights that Bolick says applies to everyone.

"I could take out my Ouija board and say that they (the founders) would not give these rights to foreigners, " Jacobs said.

"I am not ready to fold my tent and say that I'm wrong here. This (the constitution) doesn't say specifically that foreigners have a right to assemble."

Later, he called and left a message on my voice mail pointing out that the Constitution begins, "We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union . . . "

Jacobs added, "People here illegally are not the people of the United States, so I think I got this one. So, you go back and change this article (meaning the blog on the web site) and give me my love, give me my due."

That last quote is actually a lot like the stuff you'd read on an Internet blog. Scary, isn't it?

Reach Montini at 602-444-8978 or ed.montini@arizonarepublic.com. Read his blog at montiniblog.azcentral.com.