Why, Yes They Do

A reader wrote me and asked why, given my dislike for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I had not blogged on the request by a number of members of the US Congress to investigate Arpaio, particularly regarding his crime sweeps of neighborhoods that seem to result in the arrest of mainly those of Mexican ethnicity.  Heck, he has pulled more Hispanics out of some tony suburbs than I thought could even exist in the area, much less have probable cause for arrest.

I guess I haven't blogged on it because I am busy, and besides I am not sure a political stunt by some Congressmen will really amount to much of an investigation.

But I do have a reaction to the blog post that the reader sent me.  The blog is called MaxRedline and comments thus on the investigation:

This is interesting; it's unclear exactly where in the Founding documents of our nation that illegal aliens are granted civil rights.

This is a mistake I think many conservatives make.  Because, in fact, immigrants, no matter what licenses and permissions they have or don't have from the US government, have the same rights as everyone else.  Because rights don't flow from the government, they flow from the fact of being human.  Government is not the source of rights, it is their protector.  I can bring the founding fathers into the matter as well:

Like the founders of this country, I believe that our individual rights exist by the very fact of our existence as thinking human beings, and that these rights are not the gift of kings or congressmen.  Rights do not flow to us from government, but in fact governments are formed by men as an artificial construct to help us protect those rights, and well-constructed governments, like ours, are carefully limited in their powers to avoid stifling the rights we have inherently as human beings.

Do you see where this is going?  The individual rights we hold dear are our rights as human beings, NOT as citizens.  They flow from our very existence, not from our government. As human beings, we have the right to assemble with whomever we want and to speak our minds.  We have the right to live free of force or physical coercion from other men.  We have the right to make mutually beneficial arrangements with other men, arrangements that might involve exchanging goods, purchasing shelter, or paying another man an agreed upon rate for his work.  We have these rights and more in nature, and have therefore chosen to form governments not to be the source of these rights (for they already existed in advance of governments) but to provide protection of these rights against other men who might try to violate these rights through force or fraud....

These rights of speech and assembly and commerce and property shouldn't, therefore, be contingent on "citizenship".

For the same reasons, we owe the same due process to the civilian we snatched off the streets of Kabul and dumped into Guantanamo as to the housewife from Peoria.   The exception to this is things like voting and running for office, but these are just process issues associated with the artificial construct called government.  And welfare and the New Deal screws a lot of this up, but that is discussed at my post linked above.

Interestingly, most Conservatives would say that they agree with this proposition, that rights flow from our humanity and not from the government.  They would also generally oppose government licensing of all sorts of activities.  But here we have a case where conservatives are arguing that not only some limited commerce rights, but the full package of civil rights, are lost without a certain piece of paper from the government.

Many more immigration posts here.


  1. Max Lybbert:

    I remember when I was in high school a couple of German tourists were murdered in a nearby national park. The local police investigated the crime as if foreigners had the legal right to not be murdered while in the US.

    Most of the civil rights we're talking about are only mentioned in the Constitution in the form of "Congress shall make no law abridging the right to X," which like you said implies the right already exists and Congress isn't allowed to mess with it.

  2. GU:

    it’s unclear exactly where in the Founding documents of our nation that illegal aliens are granted civil rights.

    I am 99.9% certain that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution as applying to every person on U.S. soil, citizen or not. I understand Coyote's point that the Court's blessing is not what grants these rights, but the commentator he quoted is raising a non-issue.

  3. Saloner:

    Excellent post; my felicitations.
    You deserve to be thanked, and commended, for pointing out that "...rights don’t flow from the government, they flow from the fact of being human." a fact that needs to ceaselessly be drummed into our collective thought.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Bill:


    As a left-wing (nay, Marxist) relative of mine, a recent law-school graduate, said 20 years ago when I asked her naively what exactly "natural law" was:

    "I don't recognize the validity of natural law or 'original intent'; neither has anything to offer a progressive like me."

    And there it was, several years before I read any of Thomas Sowell's books: The Vision of the Anointed.

  5. dearieme:

    I don't believe in Human Rights, but Civil Rights. Your rights, and obligations, are part and parcel of the Civis to which you belong. I suppose I could take lessons in Human Rights from a bunch of 18th century slave owners, but it seems likelier that all they were doing was defending their British rights while avoiding using a phrase that they would have found embarrassing.

  6. morganovich:

    while i absolutely agree that well established and inviolable rights are needed in a society and are the ultimate guarantee of freedom, notions of "natural rights" get a little slippery. assuming that one gets rights as a function of being human seems a good thing. i certainly would not trust a government to be the provider of my rights. but this concept gets slippery as we get to the question of "what are my natural rights?"

    there is room to disagree here. there is room to try systems and see what works. there are value choices to make and decisions about which rights have precedence. "natural right" cannot be discovered like a law of gravity. there is no absolute answer that does not smack of religion.

    most will agree to a right not to be killed. but does this apply to a soldier? or someone attacking me with a knife? free speech is another such case. are we free to defame? free to incite riots? free to give a speech urging someone's execution? (this one get tricky if you include speeches urging a country to war)

    rights are a compact. we agree the world is better with them and to accept them as the basis of participation in a society. we prize a right to freedom, but what freedom? are we free to ignore societies laws? to place ourselves outside the protection and obligations of a society? is that akin to declaring war? is a society free if you cannot exit it's rules? sure you can trade one for another, but where can you be masterless? i don't mean this as an anarchist rant nor a suggestion that i would want to live that way, but it provides a decent illustration of how rights might be valued differently.

    it's seductive to speak of "natural rights" as though they are somehow definitively establishable and rankable against one another, but this is philosophy, not physics...

  7. Vladtheimp:

    Your post is thought provoking but unsatisfying. Exactly what rights do you include in the rights flowing from being a human? Do you and I have a right not to associate with some people, to not do business with some people? Do I have a right to go wherever I want to in this world? In this country? Within a state? Within a neighborhood? Within a house? Do I have a right to protect myself when others choose to exercise what they decide is their right as a human and it endangers me? What if it annoys me - do I have a right not to be annoyed?

    I think the problem is, who will determine what rights flow from being a human? A religion, but there are many of those in conflict? A king? A government? I believe that in this society, our founders set up a system whereby the democratic process (although we are a republic) and a judicial system will determine what rights we have and when the exercise of such rights impinge on the rights of others. A mere proclamation that our rights don't flow from government, and government is there to protect them leaves us, as individuals and a society, with little to fall back on, and will ultimately result in chaos and anarchy.

    I may not like the determinations government has made regarding limitations on what I consider my rights, both as a human and an American, and I may disagree with the determinations government has made regarding the rights assigned to others, but at this point I would rather have a system that is capable of change than Ward Churchill asserting his rights, Al Sharpton asserting his rights, David Duke asserting his rights, Barney Frank asserting his rights, and folks determining they have the same rights as their mentors and heroes and, like ACORN, deciding they have a right to live in my house, such right flowing to them as humans.

    Sorry about the length of the rant - I enjoy your blog and have never been moved to comment before.

  8. Will H.:

    When does human rights comes from? There are four possible source. (I am open to adding more if anyone can think of a difference source)
    1. Nature
    2. The Universe
    3. Man
    4. Creator i.e. God.

    The only thing nature teaches us is the survival of the fittest. The Gazelle doesn't have the right to live, no more than the Lion has the right to eat it. If the Gazelle can run fast enough to escape the lion it lives, otherwise the Lion eats and it lives. If that is the only right we have, is to live if we are strong enough, it will be a hard world.

    The universe does grant rights, all it provides is the laws of physics. We have not found out how to break those laws yet.

    Man can be a granter of rights through their civilizations but these are not absolute. Therefore, a civilization that can grant rights, can also remove rights. So people like dearieme live under the concept of alienable rights. Rights are civil and to be decided by the individual government. So an American can have the right to freedom of religion but an Iranian can not, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    That leaves the fourth, they originate from our creator.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." - Declaration of Independence, 1776

    The founders of this country believed that rights flowed from man's Creator and thus man should not infringe upon those rights. They also believed that governments was the instruments to protect those rights and when a form of government fails to do that then the people can form a new government.

    Of course they didn't apply those rights to either women or slaves, that came later. But they started down the correct path.

    Note to dearieme not all founding fathers where slave owners just some.

    Also since the founding fathers were willing to fight for those "rights", they were more than willing to denying the rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to the British soldiers they were shooting, especially the life one.

  9. Blackadder:

    Civil rights != Human rights.

  10. Larry Sheldon:

    Very well said.

    I have been grappling with this issue for several years and have never been able to work out what it is that bothers me about the War On Brown People.

    On the one hand illegal immigration (where the definition of "illegal" needs some work--were the DPs "illegal"?) seems absolutely wrong, but on the other hand the Border Patrol "checkpoints" all over the southwest, the midnight raids, and a lot of other things seems wrong too.

    And like so many things, when somebody points a light at it, I say "Of course! How obvious!!"

  11. Sameer Parekh:

    I agree that humans possess rights inherently, whether or not the government protects them. A Jew sitting in a gas chamber waiting for his final repose possesses the same rights that I do. Unfortunately his rights are not as well protected as mine.

    I think, however, a very solid claim can be made that the US government has no obligation to protect the rights of illegals. Certainly, they have rights. But it's the job of their own government to protect those rights. It's not the job of the US government to protect those rights.

  12. eagle feather:

    I have to agree, just because they are not from this country does not mean they have no rights. They must still be treated with respect, as well as afforded due process. There still needs to be probable cause to search them or arrest them, and being Hispanic is not good enough, nor would the lack of ID be enough.However, I do still have a problem with them, and the reason for that is because they are breaking our laws by not following the rules that exist for coming into this country. They need to be given the due process and then sent home. That being said, the solution to having them break into our country is not to go after them, but to remove their reasons for being here. If they can not get jobs without following the rules, they will stop coming(at least until the violence gets too bad. So the ones that should be targeted are the businesses that knowingly hire the illegals. Treat the problem, not the symptoms. It is just easier to go after all the brown people though.

  13. Doug:

    So how do we get from "simply being human" to:

    1) Infinite and free medical care in all of our hospitals ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLJxmJZXgNI )
    2) Crime sprees (http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE52268020090303 and http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,389147,00.html )
    3) Assorted economy- and societal-draining habits ( http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/pdf/Archive/Soc/soc.culture.mexican/2007-04/msg00042.pdf )

    It's one thing to live freely while here, it's another to live off of ME during their unannounced, extended stays. Because of this insane "they're only human" crap, the force of government is then aimed at me, through threats, intimidation, and outright theft, to support them. "War on brown people." Isn't that a code phrase for "they're untouchable"? ARGHHHH!

    Show me citizenship papers, and you pay. If you have none, you get in free. Everyone join in for a chorus of Kumbaya!

    Warren, do you allow and encourage illegals to stay at your campsites, gratis, and why not? Or are you too busy to walk the walk?

  14. Brandybuck:

    People often confuse rights with privileges. We all of the same rights, but we don't all have the same privileges. Both the illegal alien and myself have the right to due process, but only I have the privilege of voting.

  15. morganovich:


    but who has claim on the ability to provide definitive information on who our creator is and what he/she/it gave us? claiming to know such a thing can be a worrying pretext for imperialism...

    where do atheists get their rights?

    appealing to a creator to anchor a structure of rights is appealing as it leaves them out of reach of government and non-negotiable, but even if we call them "rights endowed by our creator" isn't the agreement about who a creator is and what he wants really just a human deal? therefore don't rights come from man?

    if not, then how is forcing others to accept your notion of creator and rights not tyranny? one could justify sharia law using a creator as easily as our constitution.

  16. Larry Sheldon:

    "I think, however, a very solid claim can be made that the US government has no obligation to protect the rights of illegals. Certainly, they have rights. But it’s the job of their own government to protect those rights. It’s not the job of the US government to protect those rights."

    Right there is the crux of the problem.

    Yes, they as human beings, have rights.

    No, the US governments (to include individuals operating as individuals (a key tenet of our system) are not under any obligation to protect those rights in anybody but our citizens in good standing.

    But neither can we violate those rights.

    And a key part of Who We Are is our individual and collective decisions from time to time to defend the rights of people who have no right to our defense.

  17. ccoffer:

    "For the same reasons, we owe the same due process to the civilian we snatched off the streets of Kabul and dumped into Guantanamo as to the housewife from Peoria."

    With all due respect, that is an incredibly stupid supposition. First off, the US military doesn't "snatch" so called "civilians" off the street from anywhere and "drop them in Guantanamo". If you believe they do and you aren't engaged in armed rebellion, you are a sad excuse for a patriot.

    Housewife from Peoria? Really? I mean, really?

    If you can't see how outrageously dumb that comparison is, you should be ignored whenever the subject of warfare is on the table.

  18. Steve-O:

    I guess words take on whatever meaning people give them in general use, but I thought the commenter referenced in the original post was just stating a tautology. That is, I thought the very definition of civil rights was "those rights granted by government," as opposed to human rights, which inure to our benefit because of our humanity, God, whatever.

    Maybe that was once a valid distinction that has now been lost. Maybe some faux-pedant said this to my younger, more gullible self, and I fell for it.

  19. nate schilt:

    Whoever is 99.9% sure that everyone present on U.S. soil gets the rights granted to citizens under the Constitution is 100% wrong. Whatever happened to natural sovereignty - to the right of a country to control its borders? Natural rights are not a license for anyone to go anywhere they want anytime they want, even if they are citizens. A desired freedom doesn't become a right simply by calling it that. How about a little analysis, Coyote? It's just plain silly to argue that the world has a right to invade our country at will. Obviously, the Sheriff has to abide by the law. If he was violating the U.S. Constitution, I'm sure lawsuits would be brought and restraining orders issued. No doubt he is acting on solid information, and getting warrants. Coyote's blog is just so ridiculous, and so out of character with his usual intelligence. Better stick to things you understand, Coyote.

  20. gadfly:

    Illegal aliens are indeed human, but remain in violation of US laws. Worse, the initial crime at the border is compounded by more violations every day in order to live here as part of the underworld.

    Serious criminal acts such as robbery, identity theft, benefit fraud, murder and drug trafficking are part of this sub-culture.

    How much of our current 9% unemployment would exist if only citizens could be employed?

    How much money could be saved in Maricopa County if Sheriff Joe didn't have to contend with illegals? What if Phoenix hospitals didn't have to serve illegals for free? What happens to education costs if Arizona schools didn't have to provide free education to their children?

    Sometimes we have to descend from the theoretical to the practical. Enforcement of laws equally is the only way that order can be maintained and that our citizenry can safe and can share in our bounty. God has entered this discussion and I understand that the God proclaims that the laws of man must also be obeyed. So be it.

  21. mahtso:

    Some time back the Arizona Republic reported that the trade in smuggling illegals was a $1.6 Billion per year business in Arizona; I have also seen reports that the Feds spend about $30 million per year on medical care for people that are in Arizona illegally.

  22. Les:

    I'm all for immigration reform, REAL Immigration reform... most of the proposals I've heard about sound more like love-letters to Mexico in order to keep the flow of cheep labor comming in. All about letting ill-educated brown people come in to maintain rich white people's lawns, but heaven for-fend one should allow a collage-graduate brown person from overseas come into the country who has a genuine shot at said rich white-person's job. I am formost against any 'blind-eye' immigration legislation intended to legitimize illegal immigrants as I see it as a hearty wet and cheesy penis-slap across the face to everyone who jumped through all the hoops necessary to LEGALLY enter this country.

    In my ideal worldview Illegal Immigration would be done away with in-toto by removing the Incentive for illegal immigration. Laborors would be allowed to price their labor to the market rather than indulge in the farce of trying to force a 'Living Wage' out of an 'Entry-Level Wage', and immigrants would be asked.. "Are you carrying any contraband? Are you on Interpol's most wanted list? Are you infected with any easily communicable deadly desiese we have a quarantine order out on?" If the answer to all of the above is no then Welcome to the United States of America!

    For all those who would still insist upon entering illegaly, go to hell. I'm all for throwing open the doors, but I will insist you USE them rather than try and slip-in through the kitchen window.

  23. Streaker:

    The law is what it is. They are here illegally because we have created laws that specify the way we want people to enter our country. It's not about keeping the "brown people" out and to distill it to that level is ridiculous.

    There are ways to go about changing laws in our country and that's the way these things should be handled. Until the law changes, each citizen has an obligation to uphold that law and our law enforcement groups have a duty to enforce that law by the will of the people.

  24. Bearster:

    It is just as bizarre to try to fight a war with police tactics as to police a civil society using military tactics.

    In a war, if an enemy unit fires rockets at your position, causing 12 casualties and destroying three vehicles, runs into an apartment building, do you just surround it and call for their surrender?

    In a civil society, if a criminal runs out of a store carrying jewelry and into an apartment building, do you call in an airstrike and destroy the building and everything in it?

    In both cases, the hypothetical response I suggest would be morally obscene. It would be a betrayal of the soldiers (and ultimately, American civilians) to allow the enemy to get away by running into a building. Equally, it would be a betrayal of the very civil society the police are sworn to protect to destroy a building just because a criminal runs in.

    What's the difference?

    The survival of nothing less than western civilization hangs on this question.

  25. Bob Hawkins:

    "For the same reasons, we owe the same due process to the civilian we snatched off the streets of Kabul and dumped into Guantanamo as to the housewife from Peoria."

    No. They have the same rights, but their circumstances are completely different. A POW is held because that is thought to serve the convenience of the war effort. No suggestion of unlawful behavior is required. (I'm assuming that at least a claim of illegality applies to the housewife.)

    The people we put in Guantanamo are illegal combatants. You remember the Pulitzer Prize photo of a South Vietnamese brigadier general shooting a handcuffed Viet Cong in the head with a snub-nosed .38? The VC was an illegal combatant who had gotten all the due process provided by international law. Namely, the highest ranking officer in the vicinity had talked to the VC and to some of the people who captured him, decided the VC needed to die, and carried out sentence.

    The general later was permitted to immigrate into the US. A review of his record turned up no evidence of war crimes, which would have barred his entry to the US.

    Same rights, different circumstances, different due process.

  26. feeblemind:

    If I understand your post correctly, you have a problem with Sheriff Joe arresting illegal alliens. Hmmm.... I am not sure how this is different than Sheriff Joe going into a neighborhood to arrest a thief or murderer. They have all broken the law. Sheriff Joe is just enforcing the law. Strikes me as odd that a business man does not want criminals off the street.

  27. Jim Collins:

    My hats off to eagle feather. Very well said.

  28. morganovich:

    the parallels between the "war on drugs" and the "war on immigration" are pretty clear. no more than we can stop drugs flowing into the US so long as there is demand can we stop the flow of immigration. in both cases, the answer is the same - remove the restrictions. we lost the drug war, pure and simple. all it is is price supports for thugs. it has not kept anyone off drugs and one could easily argue it make them MORE accessible to kids. tough to buy beer at 14, but pot, piece of cake. legalize it, tax it, make purchasers show ID, and bang, you have reduced access for minors more than any number of DEA squads can.

    immigration is the same. let them come. document them. give them a worker's permit and get them on the tax rolls. if we tax guest workers at a higher rate, great. if it provides a several year path to citizenship based on gainful employment, learning the language, and staying on the right side of the law. great. staunching this flow of workers will neither work nor provide benefits. there is obvious demand for unskilled labor. access to such labor at attractive prices is an ASSET, not a liability.

    cries of "they are taking our jobs" are foolish. 99% of them are doing jobs in which you wouls have no interest. and keeping them illegal just hurts business and labor alike. wages are lower, they are not taxed, they don't go into banks, it's all a reduction of multipliers. and if some come will skills, even better. god knows we need nurses in this country.

    asking companies to not hire them not only asks them not to act in their own best interest, it's also never going to work without truly draconian controls. fake green cards and work permits are hardly difficult to come by. what is the cost of asking every employer to become expert in such matters? would you know if your housekeeper's card was real? do you want to be on the hook if you are wrong?

    so long as this is where the jobs are, people will come. immigration made this country great. this "pull up the drawbridge behind me" mentality does far more harm than good.

  29. Warren Lewis:

    Right. "We form governments, not to be the source of these rights but to provide protection of these rights against other men who might try to violate these rights through force or fraud..."

    But surely you realize OUR government is not obligated to protect the rights of OTHER citizens. We could choose to if we like, I guess. But it's OUR government WE formed to protect US. Illegal aliens are in fact violating our rights through fraud and sometimes force, and that's exactly why WE have a government. Note the word "illegal." If our government steps on their natural rights, then perhaps they'll decide to stop violating ours; no harm, no foul.

  30. DGallagher:

    Language often presents barriers to communication. The word "rights" is an excellent example, most of the commentors and the author take the position that the word has some common defined meaning, and proceed to debate that. "Rights" is a word with many subtle meanings, to pretend otherwise is to engage in word games.

    Some would say that a right is something that can be legally defended, of course,those rights are different from the rights that "come from being human". You can be deprived of human rights,obviously they aren't legally defendable. If someone takes your life, good luck going to court and getting it back.

    The Declaration of Independence states that all men have certain unalienable rights (life, liberty..etc.), which they are endowed with by their Creator. Governments are created to secure these rights, and when a form of government becomes destructive to those ends, the people have a right to alter or abolish it.

    Quite seperate from the unalienable rights that all men are endowed with, are the rights enumerated in the constitutional amendments. These rights are specific limits on the power of our Government, which were created as the framers felt best to secure the unalienable rights from our Creator FOR THE CITIZENS OF THE COUNTRY.

    I am a supporter of the 2nd amendment, but I don't for a minute believe that my right to Keep and Bear arms 'comes from being human', it comes from being an American citizen. The 4th amendment bars unreasonable search, the framers decided that limiting the government in that fashion, would be most likely to secure the unalienable rights of life, liberty, etc. Perhaps they were wrong, perhaps society (and the law abiding members) would be better off if criminals didn't have this protection. Perhaps this 'American right' is actually destructive to our "human rights" in the long run. The point is that the limitations we have placed on our Government,as citizens, MUST NOT BE MISTAKEN for the human rights that we are endowed with by our Creator.

    Illegal aliens should not be deprived of life or liberty or the pursuit of happiness, but we have the right to insist that they pursue those human rights on the other side of the border. To make this point perfectly clear, ask yourself, "if Mexicans feel that the United States Government has become destructive to the ends of their unalienable rights, do they have the right to alter or abolish it?" Of course not. We, as US citizens, have a right to vote, should this right be extended to those in our country illegally? Of course not.

    Illegals have their "human rights" just like everybody else, but the "Rights of Americans" set forth in our Constitution simply represent an effort to secure human rights for American citizens. They do not apply to those who are not part of our social covenant.

    This mixing of Human rights and legal rights is ridiculous. Our Government exists to secure our human rights, not anyone elses. The Guy picked up in Kabul is intent on depriving Americans of their human rights and is most certainly not entitled to our American legal rights. Granting American rights to foreigners is a violation of American's human rights. This nonsense has already deprived Americans of their lives, a human right that came from God, not from any legal system.

  31. Jeff:

    I think the Tenth Amendment is, as often, being neglected in this discussion:
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

  32. SecondGuesser:

    I vehemently disagree with you on this one for two reasons. First of all, any attempt to interpret the intentions of the founders is futile. They did not want to be interpretted; they wanted what was written down to speak for itself. Secondly, if you're so sure that the founders intended for illegals to have the same rights as legals, then how do explain the fact that many of them were slave owners? Did they NOT intend for their slaves to have those same "inalienable" rights that they intended for illegals?

    Your argument is surprisingly foolish, because it basically erodes our rule of law. If everyone is entitled to it, what's to say that they actually need to make it to our soil for us to have an affirmative obligation to protect those rights?