Whatever his status under the immigration laws, an alien is surely a 'person' . . . Aliens, even aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful, have long been recognized as 'persons' guaranteed due process of law by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
— U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Plyer v. Doe
Americans are not a narrow tribe. Our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one.
— Herman Melville
The United States is in the midst of a major debate over immigrants and their place in our economic and political life. As during other times in our history, immigrants are being blamed for causing or contributing to the social, economic and political ills of our society. Politicians from both major parties, at both the national and state levels, are promoting a range of punitive legislative proposals that single out immigrants for adverse treatment by the government. Many violate basic civil liberties principles.
The Bill of Rights does not grant foreigners the right to enter the United States, but once here, immigrants are entitled to certain broad constitutional protections. Due Process — the right to be treated fairly, whether in a deportation hearing or a criminal court proceeding — applies to every person within U.S. borders. And Equal Protection prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin. An alien's rights to free speech and religious freedom are protected under the First Amendment. The Refugee Act of 1980 gives certain aliens the right to political asylum in the U.S.
New immigrants to our country are not a scourge as some politicians claim. In fact, they can help solve many of our economic and social problems.