Texas has a long history of conflicts with the federal government over policies and laws that protect immigrants and defend them as a part of our nation. Immigrants have been a fundamental part in the Texas economy. Most immigrants in Texas hail from Mexico due to its proximity to the state. According to the Migration Policy Institute, Texas was the number one state by absolute growth in immigrant’s population from 2000-2016 with 1,830,000 immigrants (Zong et al.), having consequently the third-largest immigrant population in the United States (Rocha et al. 904). Immigrants support the local economy in a different number of industries, especially the construction industry. Construction is one of Texas’s largest and fastest growing industries, with most of its workers are from immigrants’ communities. Immigrants are considered for many people an integral part of Texas diverse communities because of their hard work as workers, taxpayers, business owners and neighbors making and extensive contributions that benefits all of us.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas known by its acronym ACLU of Texas is an organization dedicated to defending the constitutional and civil rights that all Texans have. This institution reclaims the rights not only for citizens of the United States but also for everybody regardless of immigration status. In Texas, immigrants not only contribute to our diversity, but they also enrich our economy due to their hard work every day. Despite this, immigrants’ communities are always harassed, profiled and detained by militarized law enforcement agencies controlled by extremist politicians. Immigrants should have several rights contended in the Constitution that have been denied to them on several occasions. The right to due process, the right to legal counsel, the right to be with your family, the right to education, and the right against unreasonable search and seizure are some of the rights that immigrants have been deprived.
After Donald Trump won the elections of the United States and officially began his presidency, the immigrant’s situation has been much harder and the panic in the immigrant’s communities started to be critical. Donald Trump didn’t wait too long to start his repudiation against immigrants and posted a tweet arguing that undocumented immigrants need to be immediately returned from where they came from with no judges or Court Cases. This tweet of Trump and the recent problems produced because of the family separation at the border along with the administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy has caused too many people to question the legal rights of immigrants under United States law.
United States Constitution also apply to undocumented immigrants because most of the provision of the Constitutions are based on personhood and jurisdiction. Undocumented individuals don’t have all the rights in the Constitution, for example, the right to vote, but they still have some rights. Several parts of the Constitution use the term ‘person’ or ‘people’ instead of ‘citizen’ or ‘Americans’. For these reasons those laws, that mention person or people instead of a citizen, apply to every single person physically on the U.S. soil, without matter their migratory status. Subsequently, many of the basic rights apply to citizens and noncitizens, such as freedom of religion and speech, equal protection under the law, and the right to due process before they can be deprived of liberty, property, and life.
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “no person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (“Fifth Amendment”). Due process of law has been throughout history at the heart of several immigrants’ cases. Reno v. Flores was a court case in 1993, where the Supreme Court decided to order the government to release the alien minors to their parents or a relative that has the custody of the child. This case returned to the fame again due to the surge in family separations in the border. Due process of law has always been complicated and sometimes a violated right in court cases. Immigrants have the right to due process, but several times has happened that immigrants are not even granted a hearing at all. After President Trump’s announced that immigrants should return from where they came from, the “expedited removal” was put into effect. Expedited removal was a process to deport immigrants faster. This removal process was created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
Under the expedited removal process, some immigrants can be deported immediately without first having the due process right or going through a courts hearing. If an immigrant is in the country for less than two years and they also are within one-hundred miles far from the border, the expedited removal process will be applied to those individuals immediately, except for asylum seekers cases. Asylum seekers cases at least have the right of being heard by the court. Moreover, all the other cases who weren’t processes through expedited removal act get the right to due process in an immigrant court, where later will be debated and decided if the individual has a legal claim to stay in the United States soil.
The right to legal counsel is another right that has been denied to immigrants. The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution says that in every criminal prosecution, the accused have the right to have a counsel for his/her defense. Moreover, the Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that if a person is poor and he/her cannot afford to pay and hire an attorney, the government have to provide the individual with one. This right has been denied several times to immigrants because most deportation cases are civil cases instead of criminal cases. Because of this, the right to legal counsel sometimes doesn’t apply to some cases. Due to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, now most illegal border crossings are treated as criminal cases, except parents who cross illegally the border with their children. There was a public outcry because of the separation of the families in the border. After all this situation, the Customs and Border Protection announced that the agency stopped referring parents for prosecution, but there were other immigrants that will be charged with a crime. These immigrants weren’t either going to have the right to counsel because the government is only required to give counsel to those individuals accused of a felony. Crossing the border illegally is considered a misdemeanor and no a felony. Even though, the law says that anyone facing criminal charge has the right to counsel.
The right to be with your family is one of the principal rights that all people should have. The legal right to family integrity or family reunification have been a right pointed for too many critics. This right is not in the Constitution of the United States, but it was established in the twenty centuries through court rulings. A very basic right that people should have it’s the one to be with their family and commune with them. There are only a few situations where the government have the right to split up families, such as cases where children are abused or their parents didn’t care about them. Even in those mention cases, the government cannot separate these families if there isn’t a legal process done before.
Another fundamental right to every person in this country is the right to education. The Constitution doesn’t include any educational right, but there are other sections that apply for considering if an undocumented immigrant has the right to get an education and go to school, especially children. The Supreme Court ruled in the case Plyler v. Doe that since the 14th Amendment establishes that the government has to offer equal protection of the laws to all individuals in the soil of the United States, then undocumented immigrant children have the same rights that citizen children to access to a free and public education.
The right against unreasonable search and seizure is established in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. This law should apply to citizen and noncitizen because the Fourth Amendment expresses that “… the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue…” (“Fourth Amendment”). This right is applied to people, no matter if you are citizen or immigrant, it applies to all of us, but there is an exception for this right known as the “border search exception”. This exception didn’t come with Trump presidency, this exception has been established since the first Congress. The Congress passed this law and allowed searches at the border with the purpose of collecting duties.
After all these problems related to immigration and the legal rights of undocumented immigrants President Barack Obama announced his Immigration Accountability Executive Actions in 2014, with the purpose of solving the immigrants’ situations. One of his first actions was to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established in 2012 for the Department of Homeland Security known as DHS. With DACA people could apply for work permissions and could go to colleges and universities. Moreover, in 2014 another program was established by DHS. This new program known as DAPA program (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) were like DACA and offered similar benefits for parents of citizens and lawful permanent residents. DAPA “would exempt from immigration enforcement nearly four million illegal immigrants who are the parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents” (Blackman 79). These programs unleashed great controversies due to DACA and DAPA were executives’ actions and not new legislation from Congress. Texas and some other states started to debate that President Barack Obama was overstepping his legal bounds with the implementation of these programs. This situation led to the case United States v. Texas, a Supreme Court Case that was resolved in 2016 (Schutrum-Boward 1194). Several states including Texas were against the DAPA program and they sued to prevent its implementation. These states argued that this new program was violating the Administrative Procedure Act because it didn’t go through any notice process.
Judge Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas issued in 2015 a court order that stopped temporarily DACA and DAPA. United States v. Texas was a case that brought an important implication in the United States immigration policy. The significance of this case is based on the fact that the legitimacy of all the laws that restrict immigrants, with the intention of protecting the American people interests, are at stake now.
- Blackman, Josh. “Supreme Court of the United States.” Cato Supreme Court Review, Jan. 2015, pp. 79–100. EBSCOhost, dcccd.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.dcccd.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=119420878&site=ehost-live.
- “Fifth Amendment.” Legal Information Institute > U.S. Constitution, www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fifth_amendment. Accessed 10 Dec. 2018.
- “Fourth Amendment.” Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment#. Accessed 11 Dec. 2018.
- Rocha, Rene R., et al. “Immigration Enforcement and the Redistribution of Political Trust.” Journal of Politics, vol. 77, no. 4, Oct. 2015, pp. 901–913. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1086/681810.
- Schutrum-Boward, Daniel R. “United States v. Texas and Supreme Court Immigration Jurisprudence: A Delineation of Acceptable Immigration Policy Unilaterally Created by The Executive Branch.” Maryland Law Review, vol. 76, no. 4, June 2017, pp. 1193–1221. EBSCOhost, dcccd.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.dcccd.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=124007464&site=ehost-live.
- Zong, Jie, et al. “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.” MPI Migration Policy Institute, 8 Feb. 2018, www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.
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