Who Has Constitutional Rights? Trump Raises the Question

Published December 27, 2015

Donald Trump’s suggestion to exclude Muslims from the U.S. has been called unconstitutional as well as offensive to many.

Elected officials swear an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” But do they know what is in it?

One thing that is not in it is the poem by Emma Lazarus, which is on the Statue of Liberty. Nothing in the Law of the Land requires the U.S. to freely admit “the wretched refuse of your teeming shores”—or requires U.S. citizens to feed and provide housing and medical care for them. The load could crush our system, starting with the medical system.

Our medical facilities are already overstretched. A few days ago, at “Southern Arizona’s leading provider of emergency care,” a 32-year-old man complaining of a “10-out-of-10” level of pain in his leg lay on the floor of the emergency room for more than 7 hours before leaving without being seen. He was eventually admitted to another hospital’s ICU with sepsis (“blood poisoning”), and died 5 days later. A security guard brought him a blanket, but evidently no one checked for fever or even looked at his leg.

This ER is in the “Tucson sector,” where illegal border-crossing is very heavy. It is required to treat all comers, whether they pay or not, under the federal EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) law. Where does the U.S. Constitution require people who have not been convicted of a crime to work without being paid (isn’t that involuntary servitude?) or to have part of their earnings taken to support others?

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, hundreds of emergency departments across America have closed because of uncompensated care. The ER you use might be the next to fold.

Terrorism could also bring down the medical system. The attack in San Bernardino targeted public health department workers, and the pipe bombs placed by terrorists were evidently intended to kill first responders. This time, the remote detonator failed. A fully successful attack might have overwhelmed area hospitals with casualties, while killing a large fraction of emergency and public health workers.

Yet another health threat brought by swarms of refugees is emerging in Europe: diseases not seen there for 20 to 25 years. Dr. Jan-Thorsten Gräsner, director of Germany’s Institute for Rescue and Emergency Medicine, said approximately five percent of the recent influx of asylum seekers—about 75,000 newcomers—are bringing resistant germs with them. The latest and worst are resistant to all antibiotics, including colistin, the last resort for resistant infections. If these organisms are not contained, simple wounds and common infections could once again be fatal, as in the pre-antibiotic era.

The Constitution does not protect disease carriers against restraints on their freedom of movement, whether they are citizens or not. Legal immigrants were tested and quarantined for a time at Ellis Island.

Also, the Constitution has never been held to protect those who advocate or plot the violent overthrow of the government (and thus of itself). Our Founders were neither insane nor suicidal. Even the First Amendment doesn’t protect all speech—no one has a constitutional right to advocate setting fire to that crowded theater, to support cop-killing, or to incite riots—not even for a religious motive.

But what about banning entry to adherents of one faith, only some of whom advocate and practice violence? Jimmy Carter, we recall, banned all Iranians. Why not at least ban entrants from countries that sponsor terrorists, which are, it happens, predominantly Muslim? (Obama, remember, is denying asylum to persecuted Christians from those countries.)

Once people are in the country, is it constitutional to restrict the practice of their “religion”? Does that include actions that take lives or harm health, such as female genital mutilation, pedophilia, torturing and killing “infidels” and “apostates,” and raping or enslaving Christian women? Or the insistence that Sharia law, which either demands or tolerates such practices, overrides the Constitution?

The Constitution is meant to protect the rights of people (including women) to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If such rights are non-Islamic, how can the Constitution protect Islam?

[Originally published at Sunshine State News]

Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. She completed an internal medicine residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital and University of Arizona Affiliated Hospitals and then became an Instructor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and a staff physician at the Tucson Veterans Administration Hospital. She has been in solo private practice since 1981 and has served as Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) since 1989. She is currently president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. Since 1988, she has been chairman of the Public Health Committee of the Pima County (Arizona) Medical Society. She is the author of YOUR Doctor Is Not In: Healthy Skepticism about National Healthcare, and the second through fourth editions of Sapira’s Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis, published by Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. She authored books for schoolchildren, and Professor Klugimkopf’s Spelling Method, published by Robinson Books, and coauthored two novels published as Kindle Professor Klugimkopf’s Old-Fashioned English Grammar books, Neomorts and Moonshine, More than 100 of her papers have been published in the scientific and popular literature on a variety of subjects including risk assessment, natural and technological hazards and nonhazards, and medical economics and ethics. She is the editor of AAPS News, the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, and Civil Defense Perspectives, and is the managing editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.