Monday, July 25, 2005

Law questions about illegal labor

So I'm writing my thesis on the supply & demand of undocumented question is how could the proposition that was passed in California saying illegals couldn't send their kids to public schools, have been unconstitutional? Why did the federal court say that California couldn't have such a law? I am completely law-illiterate, so i'm throwing around these words like propositions & laws as if I have any idea of the process, but I hope my point is coming across.

In addition, the constitution says the federal government is responsible for protecting the borders from does the court consider illegal aliens as invaders? If yes, why would they then say the invaders can legally stay or have benefits like a legal? If not, why are they sending "border jumpers" to jail?

thanks for any help.


Blogger Jean said...

Hi Priscillia,

I assume you mean Prop 187 from 1994. If I understand it correctly, 187 was a victim of the Supremacy Clause – a Supreme Court case from the early 1980s established that everyone in the US has a Constitutional right to free public education regardless of immigration status (or something like that). You might find this California Journal pre-election summary, or this Wikipedia entry,, helpful.

I’ll leave the other question for someone else…


Jean :)

5:40 PM  
Blogger Joseph Schultz said...

Oh wow.

If you're talking about whether or not it's legal today, then I think Jean is absolutely correct.

If you're talking constitutionally, then most decidedly not. The constitution grants no rights to anyone but legal citizens. Constitutionally speaking, we could shoot on sight and be within the law.

My personal view: if you are not subject to our tax laws, then you don't get to benefit from the state.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

"If you're talking constitutionally, then most decidedly not. The constitution grants no rights to anyone but legal citizens. Constitutionally speaking, we could shoot on sight and be within the law."

I think I'd have to disagree with you on this one, Joseph. While there are certainly rights in the Constitution explicitly given to citizens (see, for example, Article IV, Section 2: "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States..."), there are other times where Constitutional wording clearly avoids using the word "citizen."

For instance, take a look at the very next sentence in the same section: "A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime..." The semantical distinction is, I believe, a rather important one. There are, after all, certain inalienable rights... =)

By the way, I believe that the best demonstration of this distinction can be seen in the 14th Amendment, where the Constitutiton grants Due Process and Equal Protection to individuals "within its jurisdiction," even if they are not US citizens.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Priscillia said...

That's exactly the Proposition I'm referring to. So the supreme court can decide which public goods/services are distributed to whom? ie. illegals can get emergency treatment & public education, but not food stamps? This is getting stranger & stranger. And does it actually say "free" public education? That's incredible. I will check out ur links. thanx.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

"The constitution grants no rights to anyone but legal citizens. Constitutionally speaking, we could shoot on sight and be within the law."

My father, a legal immigrant, but not a citizen, is hiding indoors for the rest of his life.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

It looks like the case basically didn't ever get higher than a District Court, so the ruling isn't that important as a precedential matter. It was appealed, but never decided on appeal because Gray Davis short-circuited it. So the Ninth Circuit didn't address the matter, nor the Supreme Court. So it's not really that much of a hook to hang anything on.

Steve is absolutely right about the Constitutional matter. States cannot deprive any PERSON of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any PERSON the equal protection of the laws. These two are far more important (at least as interpreted by the Supreme Court) than the privileges and immunities clauses of art IV and the 14th Amendment, which refer to citizens. [On this point, it might be worth reading Richard Epstein's article in the forthcoming issue of the journal I mentioned in a previous post. If you're interested, I can post a link when it is placed online.]

Alienage is therefore usually treated as a "suspect classification" and given strict scrutiny by the court. This is generally a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

As a result, there have been cases that say, e.g., that you can't discriminate against legal resident aliens in giving welfare benefits; but a) that's decidedly not the same as saying you can't withhold them from illegal aliens, and b) there have been cases whittling away at the scope of that rule.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I guess Plyler v. Doe here was the controlling Supreme Court case. J. Brennan writing for the majority. 5-4 decision. Worth a look, including the concurrences and the dissents. My guess is that the current court would reverse, though Kennedy is a tough read.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Joseph Schultz said...

Good point on Constitutional wording. I'm inclined to believe I was incorrect in my previous statement.

You learn something new every day. Great reason to read this blog.


9:28 PM  

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