That’s how a lot of people think rights work. It was as if the great Lords of the State simply created rights out of thin air and gifted them to Americans on a whim and by their generosity.

While this is clearly the work of first grade fiction, this is the fairy tale that some border agents apparently believe.

An 18 year old U.S. citizen from Texas was recently detained for nearly a month, all because it was assumed he was an illegal immigrant. At one point during his ordeal, he asked to call his mother but was denied after a border agent creepily told the teen he had no rights.

You don’t need to be a constitutional scholar to know just how wrong this creepazoid was. The kid is an American citizen and as such, very clearly has rights. But even that distinction isn’t very important because in the end, it would’ve been true even if he hadn’t been a citizen.

Any way you read it, the U.S. Constitution distinctly protects the rights of both “citizens” and “persons.” Of course, things like voting and running for office are reserved for citizens but all other rights are supposed to be equally respected by the federal government. In this situation, Hispanic immigrants certainly qualify as “persons” and have the same rights as Americans.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court, which typically isn’t a friend to liberty, has upheld the rights of non-citizens in several cases since the late 1880s.

Call me a whack job but I have a sneaking suspicion our friendly border agent, like far too many, hasn’t quite grasped the idea that rights don’t come from government. This shouldn’t be a radical concept for Americans because this idea has been here since the start.

Thomas Jefferson explicitly notes in the Declaration of Independence 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.”

Merriam-Webster defines unalienable as something that is “incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred.” (AKA are our natural/God-given rights) In other words, these rights are inherent in all people and governments can’t just take them away willy-nilly.

Any argument that claims that hispanic immigrants aren’t entitled to the same rights as Americans because they’re not U.S. citizens leads us to believe that our rights are bestowed upon us by the state. And if the state giveth, it can taketh away.

“But they broke our laws coming here illegally” one might say. Perhaps. But that doesn’t justify scrapping the rights of those being detained and denied their rights to due process as many of them have been. And if reports on the conditions of these detention camps are true, well, that sadly makes the situation ten times worse.

Immigrant or not, it’s bad news when government gets in the business of wrongly deciding who gets rights and who doesn’t. And it’s causing us to tread down a dangerous and slippery slope.

To what rational person does a militarized border, detention camps, and blatant violations of rights sound like a good idea? Throw in a growing resentment of Hispanics and you’ve got the makings of one scary concoction.

Washington, D.C. has created a disaster on our border and sadly, there’s no easy fix, even from a libertarian perspective. We can disagree all we want about this or that policy, but one thing no one should lose sight of is the absolute necessity of respecting human dignity and upholding individual rights.

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