Hillary Clinton regards vetting refugees as impossible, according to email released by WikiLeaks.
For his part, Donald Trump says his immigration plan does not ban Muslims, but instead requires “extreme vetting” for Muslims arriving from countries with documented problems of Islamic terrorism—consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
Regarding policy, Americans will decide between the sharply contrasting visions of Trump and Clinton—one focusing explicitly on security and America’s interests, the other saying behind closed doors that she believes in “open borders” but does not say so publicly, and that national leaders can have a private position that is different from their public positions.
Apologists for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton say that Trump’s immigration plan is both bad policy and unconstitutional, and that one type of immigrant—Syrian refugees—should be admitted in far greater numbers.
But hacked emails released by Wikileaks show Clinton thinks vetting Syrian refugees is “impossible.” Michael Patrick Leahy reports that Clinton acknowledged this reality for refugees pouring into Jordan.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper already admitted that the U.S. cannot vet these refugees, so this may be an instance of Clinton telling the public a different position than you take in private.
Emails also show Clinton’s inner circle caught in an echo chamber when it comes to constitutional rights for aliens (legal or illegal, not just refugees). Mandy Grunwald writes of wanting to “whack” a Republican “for trying to change the Constitution to deny babies born here the right to American citizenship if their parents aren’t citizens? (basically get rid of the 14th Amendment).”
To the contrary, the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not guarantee citizenship to the children of foreigners, whether they are in the United States legally or not. Congress chooses to grant citizenship very broadly in the Immigration and Nationality Act, but the Constitution does not require it except for the children of American citizens born on American soil.
This is not exclusively a conservative idea; in addition to constitutional conservative stalwarts like Prof. John Eastman, noted judicial activist Judge Richard Posner on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has declared that the Fourteenth Amendment does not confer birthright citizenship, calling the idea “nonsense.”
Moreover, in 1993 now-Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid introduced a bill (the Immigration Stabilization Act) that would change current law, denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Since the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, the constitutional contours of this issue have not changed from 1993 through 2016—only the politics of a cynical attempt to create millions of Democratic voters for those who racially stereotype foreigners from certain countries.
All this goes back to the famous line of Justice Robert Jackson that the Constitution is not a “suicide pact.” It is a document that ensures several fundamental principles of fairness and justice—like due process and equal protection—to all persons, whether citizens or not. But for the most part, it is a document predicated upon American exceptionalism, and showcasing an “America First” paradigm. The Constitution frames issues like national security and immigration in terms of what is best for America.
The Supreme Court seemed split on what the Constitution requires when it comes to immigrants, including refugees. Liberal justices refer to constitutional limits on immigration laws, while conservative justices say that the Constitution gives Congress complete discretion and full authority to determine who can cross the U.S. border and who can stay in this country.
On issues of immigration, refugees, and the Constitution, Trump and Clinton are worlds apart—presenting voters with a clear choice.