Trump's attack on due process is the latest deviation from presidential norms

Keeping track of the ways in which Donald Trump personally deviates from presidential norms is, by itself, a full-time job. From his daily tweets attacking political enemies to the broadsides he launches at U.S. allies and members of his own party, not a day goes by when the president doesn’t proclaim his independence from the well-established traditions of the commanders in chief before him.

On Sunday, however, that pattern crossed a notable threshold when Trump rocked a pillar of American democracy by suggesting that the U.S. suspend due process rights for immigrants.

On Monday, Trump continued trying to make his case, in yet another typo-filled tweet, for denying constitutional protections for undocumented immigrants.

During Monday’s briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked whether the president believed undocumented immigrants have no due process rights, and her answer caused even more head scratching.

“Virtually all Americans agree that it makes no sense that an illegal alien sets one foot on American soil and then they would go through a three-to-five-year judicial process to be removed from the country,” Sanders said. “Thousands of illegal aliens are removed every month without seeing an immigration judge as a result of procedures in current law including voluntary removal and expedited removal. Just because you don’t see a judge doesn’t mean you aren’t receiving due process.”

President Trump on May 21. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
President Trump on May 21. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

While Trump has never made a secret of his disdain for immigration from countries whose population is primarily non-Caucasian, his call for due process to be denied to undocumented immigrants came as Congress scrambled to pass an immigration compromise that would end the president’s policy of family separation. Reaction to his tweets was swift, with critics calling Trump’s proposed plan unconstitutional.

In fact, the Supreme Court has long ruled that the rights laid out in the U.S. Constitution extend to anyone in the country.

While many of Trump’s supporters agree with the president’s view that undocumented immigrants “infest” the country, his critics argue that singling out a group of people as unworthy of due process establishes a perilous precedent.

Due process, it turned out, was a running theme of Trump’s tweets over the past few days.

Ridding the U.S. Constitution of its due process protections would not be a simple matter, of course.

“Congress would need to legislate what Trump says he wants, and this seems unlikely. Even were Congress to pass legislation, federal courts would probably find that it violates the Constitution,” Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told USA Today.

Yet with so few Republicans bothered enough by Trump’s remarks to speak out against them, one of the fundamental rights in the Constitution itself seems on the president’s chopping block.


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