Government & Politics

Do border crossers have due process rights under Constitution? AG Hawley won’t say

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley

Missouri’s top law enforcement official would not specifically say Monday whether he believes people accused of crossing the border illegally have due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.

President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter Sunday that illegal immigrants should be deported without the right to first appear before a judge.

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country,” Trump said. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents.”

The Star asked Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Trump-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, to respond to the president’s comments Monday as the state’s top law enforcement official.

Several hours later, Hawley’s campaign provided a statement that applauded Trump’s approach to immigration without specifically answering whether he agreed with Trump that illegal immigrants should be deported without seeing a judge.

Hawley instead attacked his opponent, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent.

"President Trump is determined to secure our border, which is a refreshing change from the years of lawlessness encouraged by President Obama and the open borders policy advocated by Claire McCaskill,” Hawley said in a statement.

“The immigration and asylum process is a mess and should be reformed — and significantly streamlined. Claire McCaskill should get off her plane and join Republicans to fix the system," said Hawley, who was in California on Monday for a fundraising trip.

Hawley's unwillingness to provide a straightforward answer on the due process rights of illegal immigrants drew criticism from one of his Republican rivals, Austin Petersen, a Kansas City activist who is also seeking the GOP nomination.

"Josh Hawley is an ivy-league educated, constitutional lawyer, who is either constitutionally illiterate, or too much of a coward to admit what he knows is true. The 14th Amendment is clear," Petersen said in an email.

"No state shall deprive any 'person' who is 'within its jurisdiction' of due process. The U.S. cannot kill, indefinitely detain, or seize property from anyone within U.S. jurisdiction without due process. Hawley has apparently become a 'yes man' so willing to please his benefactors he's willing to shy away from acknowledging basic Constitutional rights."

Trump endorsed Hawley in November and traveled to St. Louis in March to hold a fundraiser on his behalf. The president name-dropped Hawley last week during his first meeting with Gov. Mike Parson since Parson took the reins of Missouri government.

In the months since the endorsement, Hawley has called for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to end his investigation into the 2016 election and strongly backed Trump on immigration, trade and other issues. He has repeatedly pointed to McCaskill in recent days when asked about Trump’s handling of immigration.

McCaskill was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers that unsuccessfully tried to pass a compromise immigration bill earlier this year.

She has expressed openness to working with Republicans on a bill in the face of the separation of families at the southern border in recent weeks.

The Star’s editorial board members chatted with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley about the opioid crisis and new abortion legislation during a Facebook Live show in June.

Trump signed an executive order to end the practice last week amid bipartisan pressure, but his administration has yet to enact a plan to reunite the families already separated.

The Democratic attorneys general of 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Tuesday in an effort to force the administration to reunite the families.

Trump's tweets about deportations without judicial hearings came four days after he signed the order.

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled on two occasions that the right to due process under the Constitution extends to noncitizens on U.S. soil.

The court said in a 2001 decision that "the Due Process Clause applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent."

McCaskill said in a statement that the law “requires our government to determine asylum claims. To secure our border and protect the children from a dangerous journey from Central America through Mexico, we should be making those determinations in their countries through our embassies.”

She added that the “law already allows for an expedited removal for any Mexican immigrant crossing the border illegally.”