• 79°

Hardly unconstitutional: Trump’s ideas may be bad, but not illegal

By Byron York

There’s a sensation building over the Democratic convention speech of Khizr Khan, a Pakistani-born Virginia lawyer whose son Humayun was killed in action while serving as a captain in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2004.

In seven minutes on the national stage, Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to this country in 1980, excoriated Trump for proposals to build a wall along the Mexican border and to temporarily ban the entry of foreign Muslims into the U.S.

“Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution?” Khan said to Trump. “I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’”

Even before Khan’s speech ended, Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans began to issue rhapsodic praise on social media and elsewhere. Video of the speech went viral, along with commentary that it was the best of the convention, the most moving, the most powerful, the most devastating to Trump, and so on. Khan, who ended with an exhortation to vote for Hillary Clinton, became an instant star of the campaign.

At the same time, some Trump supporters stirred outrage with foolish attacks on Khan. Ann Coulter tweeted, “You know what this convention really needed? An angry Muslim with a thick accent like Fareed Zakaria.” The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios said Khan’s loyalty to the U.S. is in question. Then Trump himself downplayed the Khans’ sacrifice in an interview with ABC News.

With a few obvious differences, the uproar bears some resemblance to a white-hot controversy more than a decade ago involving Cindy Sheehan, a California woman whose son Casey was killed in 2004 while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Now, with Khan, the parents of another son killed in Iraq are in the middle of a national storm. But this one is over immigration. Like Cindy Sheehan, as the father of an American soldier killed in action, Khizr Khan has standing to do what he is doing. Those who disagree with him should never belittle his sacrifice or impugn his motives. But they can challenge his argument.

Khan suggested that Trump’s Muslim ban and Mexican border wall proposals are unconstitutional.

It’s hard to know what Khan meant by suggesting a wall on the Mexican border would be unconstitutional. Perhaps it would be a bad idea, or it wouldn’t work as Trump claims it would, but there’s simply no sense in which a border wall violates the Constitution.

As far as a Muslim ban is concerned, Trump has recently amended his proposal to focus on immigration from countries “compromised by terrorism.” But assume that Khan was addressing Trump’s original, more extensive, proposal: a temporary ban on foreign Muslims from entering the United States. By telling Trump to “look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’” in the Constitution, Khan was suggesting that the ban would violate the 14th Amendment. This is the relevant portion of that amendment:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. 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 text makes clear that its protections apply to “all persons born or naturalized” in the U.S.; persons “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”; and persons “within its jurisdiction.” None refers to foreign persons in foreign countries. 

It may be that building a wall, deporting illegal immigrants, and temporarily banning the entry of foreign Muslims are all terrible policies. But among the Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans touting Khan’s performance there appears to be a belief that if something is a terrible policy, it must also be unconstitutional. That’s not necessarily so.

It should be noted, though, that Trump’s proposals are not unconstitutional according to the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the law for the last 225 years. If a President Trump acted on his proposals and was challenged in court ­— as he certainly would be — there would always be the possibility that the justices might make up some new reading of the Constitutional to invalidate the president’s actions.

Humayun Khan was one of just 14 Muslim-Americans (the number was compiled by the House Homeland Security Committee) among the 6,885 U.S. troops who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. But his parents’ anguish is very real and their story very powerful. And it will undoubtedly be used against Trump many times between now and November.

Byron York writes for The Washington Examiner.

Comments

BREAKING NEWS

RSS Board of Education approves Faith Elementary sale

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department receives 400 Pfizer, 800 Johnson & Johnson vaccines for week

Crime

Blotter: Accident in Food Lion only weekend shooting to produce injuries

Crime

Salisbury man charged with felony drug crimes

Crime

Second person charged in thefts from house near county line

Crime

Police use tear gas to end robbery stand off, arrest suspect

Local

Ask Us: When will Rowan Public Library’s West Branch open?

Nation/World

Prosecution case nears end in ex-cop’s trial in Floyd death

Nation/World

Officer accused of force in stop of Black Army officer fired

Crime

Blotter: Man charged with hitting man with car, fleeing while intoxicated

Local

‘Meet the need’: Rowan County Health Department looks to add to vaccination options

Local

Seaford is first woman in county hired for town manager position since the ’90s

Local

Colonial Spring Frolic makes a comeback to kick off museum’s year

Local

Concord City Council wants to name bridge for fallen officer, Rowan native

Education

RSS administration will recommend selling Faith Elementary property to charter school

Business

Inspired by advice from father-in-law, Angela Mills launches her own business in memory of him

Local

Rowan County Democrats re-elect leaders, pass resolutions

Local

Baseball: Memories come alive in Ferebee book

Business

Biz Roundup: Small Business Center announces spring slate of workshop for business owners

Local

During Child Abuse Prevention Month, professionals reflect on detecting abuse in a virtual world

Clubs

Kiwanis Pancake Festival starts Friday

Local

Rowan fire marshal seeks to clear up confusion, worry caused by solicitation letter

Education

Fun every day: Fifth anniversary for Yadkin Path Montessori School

Nation/World

Charles: Royal family ‘deeply grateful’ for support for Philip