To the Editor: Detainees, not just U.S. citizens, have rights PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Debbie Dalke   
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 09:27
Letters to the editor provide a great forum for community members to exchange ideas, but it is troublesome when incorrect statements are presented as facts.  One example is a letter titled "Constitution grants citizens, not foreigners, rights."   In this letter, David Lester claimed that only U.S. citizens were entitled to habeas corpus.   I found several scholars who contradict this statement, and I've provided the sources for this information.  I wish Mr. Lester had provided the source for his claim.
Habeas corpus requires the government to provide evidence that a prisoner has been legally detained.  "Habeas is not a right that one acquires by being an American citizen.  It is a right that one acquires by being held by American citizens" (Wallach, the Jurist, University of Pittsburgh School of Law).   The Constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus applies to aliens as well as citizens (Neuman, Columbia Law Review).   The extension of habeas to enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay is controversial, but the United States Supreme Court twice decided that the detainees have this right (Rasul v. Bush, 2004, and Boumediene et al. v. Bush, 2007).   
Mr. Lester asked: "how about we start collecting income taxes from them (foreigners)?   The fact is, non-citizens who earn an income in the United States are required to file for income tax (see Publication 519 on the IRS Web page).   Stephen Goss, chief actuary for Social Security, estimated that about three-quarters of non-legal immigrants paid payroll taxes in 2005.
Mr. Lester criticized a letter I wrote about the Constitution.  I argued that waterbording was cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited by the Constitution.  Mr. Lester stated that a doctor was present during the process, suggesting that this was evidence that the near-drowning could not be cruel.   Using his criterion, the "medical" experiments conducted by Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz would also not be considered cruel.
Debbie Dalke
Bowling Green

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