It is illegal to dehumanize any person

It is a daily tragedy in the United States that our political culture is becoming accustomed to the obsessive dehumanizing tendencies of the Trump administration. There has been virtually no legal penalty so far for the rampant and deliberate abuse of children and vulnerable people seeking asylum from evil.

Children are dying in extrajudicial detention camps, and the President still has allies, who behave as if recognizing the fundamental inhumanity of these abuses would undermine their partisan or factional interests.

The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

No power of any office of government exists that is not specifically prescribed by law. The rights of all human beings — even of people born outside the United States, and who are not citizens of the United States — supersede any claim by any official to any power. No rights can be diminished by the whim of any officeholder.

The detention of families seeking protection (asylum) from the tyranny of corrupt or genocidal governments, warlords and organized crime, is illegal. It is prohibited. Such detentions violate U.S. federal law and international law. It is explicitly illegal to treat asylum seekers as persons accused of crimes.

The Eighth Amendment reads:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The Fifth Amendment reads, in part:

No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…

Families, pregnant mothers, and children, are being deprived of liberty, and even of life, without any presentation of evidence to any court. They are being held without bail. They are being denied the right to seek redress. They are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

President Trump and some of his closest aides have openly said they are using this campaign of terror to intimidate vulnerable people, with the aim of coercing others into abandoning their dream of seeking the protection of American law. This coercive abuse is both a crime in itself and also a criminal abuse of office, and they have confessed to it.

They do this, in part, because they claim the holding of public office comes with expanded “rights” to take action against people or groups they dislike. This is not true. The power of the Presidency is constrained on all sides by law, by political and procedural checks and balances, and by the Constitution’s sweeping prohibitions against cruelty and abuse.

In the words of the late Senator John McCain:

Human rights exist above the state and beyond history. They cannot be rescinded by one government any more than they can be granted by another. They inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be abridged, they can never be extinguished.

Officeholders are constrained in their freedom to use the powers of their office according to personal whim.

We are being asked to accept dehumanization as a core value of our politics, by an administration that exhibits little understanding of or commitment to the rule of law. They are asking that we accept that the laws that protect us from abuses by government not protect against abuses by government. This demand that we accept the dehumanization of the other is a direct abuse of all of our rights.

Any orders that demand or imply abuse of any person are illegal.

  • No agent of government has any lawful power to carry out those illegal orders.
  • It is not an excuse to say one followed orders due to ignorance of the rigors of the law.
  • The law requires no abuse, no extrajudicial detention, no denial of transcendent rights.

When a human being comes into contact with an official of the United States government, or of any level of public authority within the United States, that person must be treated as fully human, with all corresponding rights, in every case, at all times. It is illegal to dehumanize any person, to any degree.

The President and his followers demand that he and his family and aides be treated as innocent until proven guilty — even as evidence circulates of grave betrayals of the public trust and willing attacks on the integrity of our democracy. Yet they demand that human beings seeking asylum be treated as guilty of crimes, no matter the law or the evidence.

Any attempt to treat the defenseless as having fewer rights than the powerful is an attempt to overthrow democracy. It can never be anything less than that. Democracy means not only that those who hold public office serve the people; it also means that the humanity of the asylum seeker must govern the decisions of those who hold power over their fate.

We must all make sure to cultivate and to safeguard an active awareness of these dynamics. We must recognize what is at stake when a petty tyrant becomes an actual tyrant and asks that we accept the dehumanization of vulnerable people.

We must demand of all who hold public office that they never fail in the transcendent responsibility to serve the common humanity of all people.

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