Nadine Strossen: Should illegal immigrants get the same rights as Americans?
Nadine Strossen has written, lectured, and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil liberties, and international human rights. From 1991 through 2008 she served as president of the American Civil Liberties Union, the first woman to head the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization. Professor Strossen retains leadership positions with the ACLU as a member of its National Advisory Council and Co-Chair of its Campaign for the Future.
The National Law Journal has twice named Professor Strossen one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” In 1996, Working Woman Magazine listed her among the “350 Women Who Changed the World 1976–1996.” In 1997, Upside Magazine included her in the “Elite 100: 100 Executives Leading The Digital Revolution.” In 1998, Vanity Fair Magazine included Professor Strossen in “America’s 200 Most Influential Women.” In 1999, Ladies’ Home Journal included her in “America’s 100 Most Important Women.” In 2005, Professor Strossen was honored by the University of Tulsa College of Law and the Tulsa Law Review, which made her scholarly work the subject of their Fifth Annual Legal Scholarship Symposium titled “Nadine Strossen: Scholar as Activist.”
Professor Strossen’s writings have been published in many scholarly and general interest publications (more than 250 published works). Her book, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights (Scribner, 1995), was named by The New York Times as a “Notable Book” of 1995 and was republished in 2000 by NYU Press, with a new introduction by the author. Her coauthored book, Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (NYU Press, 1995), was named an “outstanding book” by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.
Professor Strossen graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College (1972) and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School (1975), where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Before becoming a law professor, she practiced law for nine years in Minneapolis (her hometown) and New York City.
Question: Should illegal immigrants get the same rights as Americans?
Nadine Stossen: The ACLU from the beginning has always defended the rights of all persons against abuses by the United States government. I said this way at the beginning. So, it is not limited geographically. It is limited by who the government officials are. So, even if an American citizen in this country were abused by a Mexican government official, I mean we would maybe go after the US government for not sufficiently protecting against Mexican official. But it doesn’t matter what the person's citizenship is or where they are located. Our government is always accountable to constitutional standards and other legal standards including under international law regardless of where our home it is using its power. We are and so, one of the first issues that the ACLU dealt with right at the very beginning of its existence was rights of immigrants. I mean there were the Palmer Raids and people who were treated as having no rights among other reasons because they were non-citizens and here we have a very strong constitutional leg to stand on. If you look at provisions in the Constitution, some of them do apply to citizens, but the most fundamental rights are explicitly granted to persons and so when you know that the framers in two different clauses of the very same amendment, one of them talks about citizens and the other one talks about persons. They were deliberately saying it doesn’t matter what your citizenship status is. You still are entitled to fundamental due process rights, to fundamental equal protection rights. They may not be exactly the same process that is due to a citizen, but they certainly are there and I don’t know a single Supreme Court justice who has disagreed with that position. You can fight about the details of exactly what the rights are that are due, but…so that is something that we have always taken a decision on, where there is more debate now and is an issue that is before the Supreme Court in the last case arising out of Guantanamo that it heard arguments on in December and that is when the United States government acts against anybody outside of our territorial jurisdiction and then becomes more pointed if you are talking about a non-citizen and the ACLU actually filed a brief in that case in which we argued specifically that the Constitution is not limited geographically and in particular there are great writ of habeas corpus that allows somebody to go before a judge to challenge the fact that he or she is being detained by the government is something that should pertain regardless of geography and regardless of citizenship. The lower court had reached the opposite holding and the brief is very persuasive if you look at all the precedents where something occurs and who the victim is, is a factor, but it is not conclusive.
Recorded On: 2/14/08
The framers of the Constitution were careful to use the word "persons" says Strossen.
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